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Astros remain in Pence talks

The Astros remain in intense trade talks regarding All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence on Friday afternoon, specifically with the Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB.com has confirmed Pence was briefly removed from the lineup prior to Thursday’s game in St. Louis because of potential trade, but wound up staying in the order and going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Astros’ win. Pence was in the lineup on Friday night for Houston’s series opener against the Brewers, batting fourth.

Although there are reports the Astros and Phillies have discussed a three-team deal, a person close to the situation told MLB.com Friday that a two-team swap remains Houston’s focus. The Astros are coveting several prospects for Pence, who’s the top name on the trade market in the wake of the Carlos Beltran trade.

The Atlanta Braves are also reportedly in the mix for Pence’s services, along with the Reds and a handful of other teams.

Astros general manager Ed Wade had no comment.

The Astros are also getting heavy interest about Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and, to a lesser extent, right-hander Brett Myers. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Brian McTaggart

Pence: ‘I love Houston’

With the Astros possibly getting closer to a deal to trade Hunter Pence, the right-fielder admitted following Thursday night’s win over the Cardinals that he couldn’t help but think it might have been his last game in an Astros uniform.

“What can I say? I’m not in control,” he said. “I love these guys, I love Houston. That’s all I know.”

The Phillies are pushing hard for Pence and could be willing to offer pitcher Vance Worley, outfielder Domonic Brown and a Minor League pitcher.

Pence went 2-for-4 with two doubles on Thursday to raise his average to .309, saying he benefited from a day off.

“Sometimes when you get to watch a game you know it kind of slows things down for you,” he said. “Things were piling up and was making mistakes of the past and trying to do too much just to make up for it. It made me realize…slow the game down.”

Brian McTaggart

Pence could be on the move

The Astros appear to be moving closer to trading All-Star right-fielder Hunter Pence, MLB.com has learned.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least six teams are involved in negotiations to acquire Pence, according to a person close to the situation. No deal is imminent, and Astros general manager Ed Wade declined to comment when reached by MLB.com.

KRIV-TV in Houston reported on its website Thursday the Reds, Phillies and Braves, along with three teams in the American League, are in the negotiations.

-- Brian McTaggart

Houston most likely spot for Pence

The closer we get to Sunday’s Trade Deadline, the more likely it appears that Astros All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence will remain in Houston.

Peter Gammons of MLB.com reported earlier this week that word spread around the general managers’ world on Monday that Pence was essentially off the market, and an industry insider believes he will stay with the Astros. If the Astros were to make a deal at this point, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez appears the most likely candidate.

The Braves and Phillies have reportedly shown interest in Pence, but he would come with a high price tag considering he’s the Astros best and most popular player. And he’s under club control for two more years after 2011.

The Astros are positioning themselves to unload some payroll, and Rodriguez is owed the remainder of his $7 million salary this year, $10 million next year and $13 million in 2013. He has an option for 2014 with $13 million, with a $2.5 million buyout.

It’s unknown if the Astros would be prepared to take on some of that money to get a deal done. Houston is still paying $10 million of Roy Oswalt’s contract this year.

Brian McTaggart

Astros willing to listen

The Astros are engaged in numerous trade conversations, but general manager Ed Wade has a policy not to discuss trade specifics.

What’s known is outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn – their two best offensive players – have been attracting considerable attention, but they will come with a steep price. Houston is more likely to deal pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers, despite their multi-year contracts.

“As I’ve indicated before, at the very least we have to be good listeners,” Wade said. “We can always say ‘no’ to anything that we don’t think improves us in the short term or long term. It’s important for us to be proactive on a couple of different fronts as we were with Jeff Keppinger, and at the same time be receptive and responsive to any other inquiries or opportunities that may present themselves.”

– Brian McTaggart

Pence to stay in Houston?

Houston All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence is one of the summer’s biggest trade commodities, but SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported via Twitter on Sunday the team was going to keep Pence. The team has not confirmed that rumor.

Astros general manager Ed Wade has said multiple times in the last few weeks that he plans to be a good listener and would be willing to consider to any offers, but the team isn’t going to part with Pence without getting plenty of talent in return.

The Astros may be more likely at this point to deal pitchers Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez, who wouldn’t bring as much in return as Pence. Myers and Rodriguez both recently signed contract extensions, and the Astros might have to take on some of that money like they did last year when they deal Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

– Brian McTaggart

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Phillies

Here is the Astros lineup for Saturday’s game against the Phillies, who are starting left-hander Cliff Lee:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

2B Bill Hall

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

C J.R. Towles

P Wandy Rodriguez

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