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Enjoy Your All-Star Break

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heh . . .heh . . .heh . . .
He wrote"Pujols"

Listen to some music. Rock out. . . .

***

This is probably old news to you by now, but I did want to get news of both the Futures Game and Backe's latest rehab start vs. Ben Sheets onsite.

The Astros had two players represented at PNC Park Sunday. Jason Hirsh started for the US team and went an inning, giving up a soft single and striking out one. And so you get an idea of what starting the Futures Game might potentially mean, last year's starters were Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano. So you might say Jason is on the fast track.

Hirsh is currently 10 - 2 with a 2.28 at Triple A Round Rock. He leads the club in innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts, but is second among Express starters in winning percentage and WHIP, simply because Chris Sampson is 10 - 1 with 72 hits and 10 walks in 84-2/3 innings.

Hirsh's 99 K's are fourth best in the PCL. Hirsh's ERA is also good for fourth in the Pacific Coast League, and of the top four in that category, Hirsh is the only one who has yet to appear in the majors.

Starting in right field for the US team was Hunter Pence. He went 1 for 3 with an RBI single and a run scored, and became the first offensive player in the organization to start in the Futures Game since Chris Burke did so in 2003. Pence leads the Corpus Christi squad in homers with 20, in RBI's with 63, and in slugging at .553. His OPS of .900 is second on the team to Ben Zobrist's.

So you can get an idea leaguewide, the 20 homers gain Pence a tie for league lead, the .553 SLG is good for third in the TL, and the 63 RBI is enough to rank him second in that category.

His .347 OBP, however, is below the Texas League median among qualifiers. Pence has struck out 72 times and walked 30.

Backe's start against Nashville in Austin appears to have been a blast.

Backe went 5-2/3 innings, allowing seven hits, striking out five and walking three while giving up two runs. But Brandon also doubled twice, and drove in two. Backe had walked twice in his two previous plate appearances during his rehab, and has thus yet to be retired in a minor league at bat this year.

The game--in which Milwaukee's Ben Sheets made a rehab appearance of his own, and took the loss, represents the third rung of the ladder for Backe. Before going the 5-2/3 and giving up the two on Sunday, he had gone three innings and gave up five runs in his first start, went 4-1/3 while giving up one run in his second start.

I'd guess the plan is for Brandon to go seven in his next start July 14 at New Orleans. And I assume they still plan to have him join the major league rotation July 22nd, in New York against the Mets.

I can't wait.