With the MLB Draft over and his team on the road in Pittsburgh, Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is in Oklahoma City the next two nights.
Attending the RedHawks' Monday and Tuesday games against Memphis, Luhnow is scouting players, talking to coaches and enjoying a mini-vacation.
Hours before Monday night's game in Bricktown, Luhnow chatted about Oklahoma City, his organization and which RedHawks could be heading to Houston soon.
How often do you come here to watch a game?
“The last time I was in Oklahoma City was for the Triple-A national championship when the Memphis Redbirds were in it (2009), and I fell in love with the stadium, fell in love with the city. This is the first time I've been here as GM of the Astros, but I watch the games when I'm in Houston and it's something I really enjoy doing. First time I've been down here this year, but it won't be my last. I plan to come here regularly.”
What's the point of this trip? To see a specific player?
“It's really to see everyone. We have conference calls with the staff once a month, and we keep in daily contact. But it's a little different when you are here in person and get a chance to see the players. I have a scouting background and I've been doing it for nine years, so I wanted to see some of the players and talk to them.”
Brett Wallace is a guy constantly rumored to be on his way to Houston. He had a stint earlier this year and performed well. Recently, you had a Carlos Lee trade fall through that would have brought Wallace back. Are you trying to find a place for him?
“I think what I learned from Brett's last trip to the big leagues is that he is ready to come and stay. My belief is the next time he comes, he won't be coming back. Now, we don't want him to come up there and be a bat off the bench. We want him to come up there and have a regular position, whether it be third or first, and we want him to play every day. Right now, that doesn't exist, so whether it's later this month or later this summer, we have to be patient.”
How about a guy like Mike Hessman? Not necessarily in your long term goals because of age (Hessman is 34), but he's having an amazing year in OKC, leading the PCL with 24 home runs.
“Yeah, what a terrific story. There was a reason our Triple-A staff fought so hard for him in the spring. He had a rough spring, looked a little rusty, but they saw something from him, not only from a work ethic standpoint but also from a skill standpoint. Mike has done a terrific job, and there's no question he deserves an opportunity to come up to Houston and put some balls in the boxes there. Hopefully he will get that chance, we'll see what happens, but he continues to do what we asked him to do here and he has earned a shot.”
Next year, you guys move to the American League West and will suddenly have a designated hitter role to fill. Is that something that presents an opportunity to someone like Wallace or Hessman?
“Absolutely. No question we are going to need some big bats next year, playing Texas, Anaheim, Seattle and Oakland. We're going to be looking for different guys to fill that spot, and they've both done a good job of auditioning for that spot this year in Oklahoma City.”
Anyone else that you view as a potential call-up pretty soon?
“I think Jimmy Paredes. He has made a position change and done well. Unfortunately for him, our second baseman just made the All-Star team. But I think, the one thing we know about Jimmy is that he is capable of playing multiple positions, so I wouldn't hesitate to bring him up even if it were for a different position. He's been working on some things down here, in terms of pitch selection and I think he's gotten better.”