Astros trade 2B Keppinger to Giants

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HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros traded second baseman Jeff Keppinger to the San Francisco Giants for two Double-A pitchers on Tuesday. Houston also purchased the contract of infielder Jose Altuve from Double-A Corpus Christi, and Astros manager Brad Mills said he will get significant playing time at second base.

Keppinger, batting .307 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 43 games this season since his return from foot surgery, is looking forward to playing for a team in the playoff hunt. The defending World Series champion Giants entered Tuesday’s game in first place in the NL West.

“I get to go to a team that’s in contention,” he said. “This will be the first time I’ve ever actually been on a team that’s been in first place or even with a winning record. It’s definitely exciting and that’s what you want when you play this game.”

The Giants have had injury problems at second base this season with Freddy Sanchez out since June 10 with a dislocated right shoulder. They signed former Houston second baseman Bill Hall after Sanchez was injured, but he is on the disabled list because of a leg laceration.

The 30-year-old Keppinger came to Houston in a March 2009 trade from Cincinnati. He is a career .284 hitter with 30 homers and 200 RBIs with the New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Reds and Astros since his debut in 2004.

The last-place Astros received right-handed starter Henry Sosa and right-hander reliever Jason Stoffel.

“You don’t like to see a guy like Keppinger go,” Mills said. “He’s such a professional hitter. I’m sorry to see him go, but I’m happy for him. It’s an exciting time, I think, for the organization. We got a couple good arms, it sounds like _ not just looking at their numbers, but the reports on them, as well. The two guys we got look to be pretty solid players.”

The 25-year-old Sosa spent time at Triple-A Fresno this season, but is currently at Double-A Richmond. He is a combined 8-3 with a 5.51 ERA in 63 2-3 innings this season.

Stoffel has 13 saves and a 3.98 ERA in 32 games with Richmond this season. He has a 4-6 record with 42 saves and a 3.77 ERA in 101 career minor league relief appearances.

Houston general manager Ed Wade said he believes Sosa could become a part of the Astros‘ rotation as early as next season.

“I think as we move forward here, if we have an opportunity to add prospect depth to the system, we’re going to do that,” Wade said. “It’s about trying to build quality within to get to a point where we can have that core nucleus be developed from within our own organization. That’s a very important aspect of what we’re trying to do here.”

Wade didn’t enjoy trading Keppinger, but felt the move was best for his team.

“We’ve got some infield depth and it gives us a chance to get Altuve up here and let him get his feet wet at the big league level,” he said. “At the same time add the pitching depth that we’re going to desperately need going forward.”

The 21-year-old Altuve has a combined .389 average at Class-A Lancaster and Corpus Christi this season. He has 22 doubles, 10 homers and 59 RBIs with 24 stolen bases this season. Mills said he will start at second base on Wednesday.

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