Familiar faces to cross paths in Astros-A's series
HOUSTON -- The Astros and A's have only played each other six times in their history, with each team making one trip to the other's park during Interleague Play. They're about to become very familiar beginning Friday, when the A's make their first visit to Minute Maid Park since 2007 to meet their new American League West rivals.
The teams don't have much history against each other, but there will be some very familiar faces crossing paths in Houston this weekend.
Two months ago, the Astros traded shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez to the A's in exchange for pitcher Brad Peacock, outfielder Chris Carter and catcher Max Stassi. Peacock will start Friday's series opener and Carter won the Astros' starting job in left field, while Lowrie is starting at shortstop for Oakland.
What's more, A's infielder Nate Freiman spent most of spring camp this year with the Astros, who took him in the Rule 5 Draft before losing him to the A's on a waiver claim. Freiman had a pair of hits and an RBI in his Major League debut on Wednesday.
"It'll be a little weird, but this is a team I consider having left on the best of terms," Freiman said. "I have nothing but good things to say about [Astros manager] Bo Porter and the entire team. They treated me fantastic, and I couldn't have asked for more from them. I think they're going to do good things there. As long as they're not in the opposing dugout, I'll be rooting for them. It'll be good to see some guys over there."
The Astros wanted to keep Freiman, but couldn't wedge him into their first-base/designed-hitter rotation with Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena. Porter was glad to see him catch on in Oakland.
"I'm happy for Nate," Porter said. "He's a tremendous young man and did a great job for us, and unfortunately it didn't work out here, but that's what happens in baseball. When you're playing, there's another team still watching and scouting you, and Oakland did a good job of grabbing him, and congratulations for him for making their Opening Day roster."
Lowrie, who spent one year in Houston after being acquired in a trade with Boston, has also made an immediate impact in Oakland, hitting a homer Wednesday in a win over Seattle. He hit .244 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs in 97 games with the Astros last year.
"I enjoyed my year there," Lowrie said. "It's a good place to play. Obviously, I know a lot of the guys over there as well, so it'll be fun to see them, especially since we didn't get to see each other in Spring Training, with them being in Florida. It should be fun."
Friday's start is a big one for Peacock, and not just because he'll be facing several of his old friends. He made his Major League debut in 2011 with Washington before being traded to the A's, pitching all of last season in Triple-A. It will be his first big league start since Sept. 22, 2011.
Peacock keeps in touch with Oakland players Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, Josh Donaldson and Dan Straily, who will start for the A's on Friday.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time, and I'm ready to get going," Peacock said. "I felt like it's been forever since I've been out there. Just getting back on the mound -- I want to have a good game -- and I get to see all my buddies from Oakland. It should be fun."
Carter spent considerably more time with Oakland than Lowrie and Freiman did with Houston and Peacock did with Oakland. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2005, traded to Arizona two years later and 11 days later was acquired by Oakland.
Carter split the 2010-12 seasons between Triple-A Sacramento and the Major League club, hitting 16 homers with 39 RBIs in 67 games for Oakland last season.
"It's always fun playing against the team you came from," said Carter, who's 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts to start the season. "You always want to do good against them, so I'm excited for that. I still talk to A.J. Griffin, Coco [Crisp], Norris and all the guys I came up with in Triple-A. It's different being on this team and playing against them after being on the team with them."
Peacock and Carter are crucial parts to the Astros' rebuilding process, and Lowrie applauds general manager Jeff Luhnow for making such a firm commitment to youth, even if it did cause him to be traded for the second time in 14 months.
"The one thing I can say is that Jeff is very committed to what he's doing, and he's not listening to what anyone else is saying," Lowrie said. "He has a vision, and he's going to follow that. A lot of teams would hedge and bring in a couple of mid-level veterans just to keep the fan base happy, but he is very committed and knows what he wants to do. Whether he's right or wrong, you have to salute him for what he believes in."
Stassi had sports hernia surgery early in spring camp and is expected to return to action soon in the Minor Leagues. Rodriguez, who appeared in 71 games for the Astros last year, underwent Tommy John surgery a week ago and is out for the season.