Express manager Mickey Storey is a man of routine. He likes to set his lineup for the following game early in the morning or late at night the previous evening.
It came back to bite him last Wednesday when he had literally nobody on the bench to back up the nine starters.
Infielder Josh Rojas was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part oft eh package that saw the Astros acquire ace Zack Greinke and outfielder Derek Fisher was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays.
“We had (pitcher Akeem) Bostick suited up in cleats and wrist tape and sunglasses just in case,” Storey said. “He was the emergency guy. I don’t even know where I would’ve played him. I’m glad it was a clean game. I’ve never had that happen before.”
Storey schedule Rojas to be on the field at 3 p.m. — the same time the MLB Trade Deadline officially ended — to practice ground ball and turning double plays.
Shortly after the deadline ended, deals started to trickle out. Guys started running out to the field to the field yelling about the Fisher trade and the Round Rock manager got a call out on the field, gave the young infielder the news and a hug and sent him on his way.
“He was a very surprised young man,” Storey said. “Very unsure what was next kind of look on his face. He was kind of coming into his own with us. He only knows the Astros organization - we gave him a chance.”
A 26th-round pick out of the University of Hawaii, Rojas took a senior signing bonus of $1,000 to join the Houston organization.
He made the quick journey through Single and Double-A last year and was blossoming with the Express this season, boasting a .987 OPS and .310 batting average with 39 RBIs and 12 home runs in 53 appearances for Round Rock.
“He the easiest guy I’ve ever had to manage,” Storey said. “Because there was so much go and there was never any push back. If I told him to work on being a catcher, he would’ve thrown the gear on.”
The deal that saw Houston get Greinke saw the Astros part with the Nos. 3-5 prospects (pitchers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas and first baseman Seth Beer) in addition to Rojas. The Astros received Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and Cal Stevenson in the Fisher deal.
It was just as noteworthy who wasn’t traded on deadline day.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was very clear that no matter who the Astros acquired for their big-league club, top pitcher Forrest Whitley and top hitter Kyle Tucker were off limits in trades. Both have spent time in Round Rock this season.
Tucker was a Triple-A All-Star and leads the Express in games played (102), RBIs (80) and home runs (28) this season while Whitley appeared in eight games fort eh Express this season and is currently in Double-A with the Corpus Christi Hooks after a long stint on the injury list.
“I’m still here, so I pretty much just pick up where I left off,” Tucker said. “Even if I got traded to another team, I’m not automatically on a big-league roster. It’s always good to have the GM come out and say (he wants us). It shows he has full confidence in me and Forrest.”
With the season winding down, the Express are still three games behind the San Antonio Missions in the American Southern Division as of Monday.
Round Rock hosts San Antonio in the final home series of the regular season, which could serve crucial in the playoff push. Storey, who has managed at all levels of the Astros organization, is still optimistic despite the Astros’ offloading of prospects.
“We have a good core of good players and players that are coming that are going to help and we have a system that finds a way to get it done,” Storey said. “At lower levels, you’d think you lose a good player and it would get filled in with pieces that churned out wins. It has everything with developing players and buying into the Astros system.
“I don’t expect us to miss a beat.”