HOUSTON -- The Astros were one of the pioneers of scouting in Venezuela when they became the first team to open a baseball academy there in 1989 before closing it after five years for several reasons, including an unstable political climate.
The team was also dealing with an expiring lease on the grounds at Venoco Oil Company, had the desire to have a bigger presence with a new academy in the Dominican Republic and they were getting younger in the Minor Leagues and were bringing players to the U.S. sooner (Jose Altuve, for example).
The Astros, who wound up signing future stars Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu and Freddy Garcia out of Venezuela, are considering a renewed presence to the South American country by establishing a team there in the fall as a precursor to perhaps becoming more involved in player development.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said director of international scouting Oz Ocampo has been investigating having a partial or full Astros team in the Parallel League, which is basically the Minor Leagues of Venezuela.
"It's a very competitive league," Luhnow said. "It's probably similar to low A or maybe high A. It's just a good opportunity to continue to develop Venezuelan players, Colombian players, etc. They play something like 60-odd games in the months of October, November and December."
Any players the Astros sign out of Venezuela will play in the winter league season, but the Astros' coaches aren't involved, so the team loses some control. That's why some teams like to have their own parallel league teams.
"We're looking at the options," Luhnow said. "We really want to see what happens with the political environment down there, security environment, before we commit any resources."
Corporan, Stassi making strides after concussions
HOUSTON -- The Astros' banged-up catchers are on the mend.
Carlos Corporan, who suffered a concussion when he took a foul ball off the mask on Aug. 19, has been working out the last few days and hopes to begin baseball activities soon. He's not suffering anymore concussion symptoms, but doesn't appear to be close to coming of the seven-day disabled list.
"Everything is looking good" said Corporan, who definitely had more pep in his step than he did a few days ago. "I'm feeling better every day and have no more headaches. I'm happy to be back to normal. That wasn't fun."
Corporan chuckled Thursday while telling reporters he actually got a better score on one of the concussion tests than he did when he took it in Spring Training.
"I think it made me smarter," he said.
Meanwhile, Max Stassi, who was called up when Corporan got injured and suffered a concussion Aug. 21 when he was hit in the head by a pitch, isn't as far along as Corporan. He's still has occasional headaches, but they're not as bad as they were.
"I'm a lot better," he said. "I got a lot of sleep when I was left behind here [while the team went to Chicago] and the only thing is my balance isn't there and there's a little dizziness still. If it doesn't get better in a couple of days, I'll see a balance specialist."
Stassi is riding an exercise bike, but isn't sure when he'll return to the field.
"I never had a concussion before," he said. "I just thought your bell gets rung and you're OK in two days. That's not the case. I didn't know you get exhausted and all this stuff for no reason. We're going in the right direction, though."
Carter displaying less pop at Minute Maid Park
HOUSTON -- Astros slugger Chris Carter had a big series against the White Sox in Chicago, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with three homers and six RBIs. He's hitting .313 with five homers and 17 RBIs in his last 13 road games since Aug. 4.
The success away from home is nothing new for Carter, who has been much better on the road this year than he has at home. He's hitting .271 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs in 62 road games and entered Thursday hitting .160 with nine homers and 21 RBIs in 59 home games.
"It's a fluke," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's not like we have five or six years of information to go by. This is his first opportunity in which he's played every day, and I think it's just a fluke that he has better numbers on the road then he does at home. It's one of those things for me, you look at the dimensions of our ballpark and you see how short the wall out there is in left field, and you say to yourself, 'Wow, if this guy were to pull the ball, he's maybe going to hit 40 home runs instead of 30.' As time goes on, we'll have more information."
That being said, the Astros aren't focusing on Carter pulling the ball. He leads the league and has set an Astros record with 179 strikeouts, and Porter said it comes down to being on time with the fastball.
"If you look at the course of the season, the ups and downs in which he's had, and you look at the number of strikeouts, the strikeouts haven't happened on strike three," Porter said. "They've happened in strike one and strike two, and the majority of the time it's not being on time with the fastball. When he's on time with the fastball, the majority of time he hits for left-center or left field."