I am very pleased to present the second half of my emailed interview with Mr. Gilbert. The first half had been presented here. That a gentleman inside enough with the Astros so that he spends innings at Minute Maid with Tal Smith should choose to contribute here is both very much appreciated and very humbling.
TCB: For a few years, I was running around with flyers on Adam Everett that said, "Caution: May Not Be Able to Hit." But after a respectable 2003 and an exciting 2004 cut short, he's at .228 in 2005, with five errors. Is Everett's start more tied in with the general team malaise, or was there something fluky about 2004?
BG: I don't think 2004 was a fluke. Everett started slowly this year due, at least in part, to a lingering case of the flu which resulted in a significant loss of weight. He is hitting much better now and should be capable of a season comparable to the last two. I think he will eventually have a year or two better than what he has done so far as he gets stronger and gains more experience. I wouldn't expect him to ever be more than an average major league hitter but that should be enough for a productive career with his strong defense. I don't see him being displaced by anyone currently in the Astro farm system.
TCB: Does it still look to you like Berkman is limping? If so, is that at all normal? Also, I heard the comment on a fan board the other day that "overweight outfielders tend to have short careers." Now, I'm all for Berkman as man and player of the people, but the statement did give me pause. Do you know if the Astros have actively pushed Berkman into maybe working out a bit more?
BG: I haven't noticed Berkman limping. He may not be quite at full speed but he is close. I wouldn't call him overweight. I'm not aware of him being pushed to work out more. It's taking him a while to regain his timing but he should be OK. He won't put up his usual numbers this year because of his late start but I expect him to have a productive second half.
TCB: I was glad to see Mike Burns get the callup; unlike the # 1 picks with the trip to the show negotiated into the contract, guys like Burns make the majors the old-fashioned way: they EARN it. but who has taken over the ninth inning for the Express in Burns' absence?
BG: Burns is a competitor who relies on the command he has of his 90-91 fastball. He appears to me to be a borderline major league relief pitcher. The Express does not appear to have a designated closer with Burns in the majors. Travis Driskill is getting most of the opportunities.
TCB: I asked this question on The Crawford Boxes a few weeks ago, and no-one chimed in. When the Billy Wagner trade went down, the jewel was supposed to be Taylor Buchholz. Almost a year and a half later, Buchholz is still in the minors, and it is the B player in the deal, Ezequiel Astacio, who's made the majors. Understanding that perhaps Astacio was rushed, what's up with Buchholz?
BG: The Astros have not given up on Buchholz. He has been unable to avoid arm problems but appears to be recovered now and has pitched pretty well the last 2 or 3 weeks with a record of 4-0 and an ERA of 4.44. He may be the next candidate for the No. 5 starter job with the Astros if Wandy Rodriguez falters.
TCB: Todd Self appears to be a fairly interesting player, not because his first major league hit was a homer, but rather because he's always hit .300 in the minors and has accumulated 80 + walks two consecutive seasons. Despite the absence of a huge power stroke, do you think Self is a guy who make a home for himself in the majors. Or do you see him more as a Dave Matranga/Colin Porter type, promoted mostly coz they had the AAA numbers?
BG: I like Todd Self. He has solid fundamentals. He even catches fly balls with 2 hands, the way I was taught 60 years ago. However, he has not been considered a prospect because he is a first baseman-corner outfielder without power. He has had excellent plate discipline throughout his career and, with his size, he could still develop some power. I don't see him as a major league regular but he could be a useful bench player.
TCB: Anything else the Astro fan should know about the Express? Certainly glad to see that Jackie Moore, as he usually does, has the team winning, but is there maybe anybody who's taken a leap forward with the Express this year?
BG: I'm going to Dell Diamond Thursday to see the Express. I'll give you a more informed report then.