Day one in the books. Glad I remembered the sunblock.

Random news, tidbits and thoughts after my first day of Spring Training…

Roy Oswalt’s arm in better shape than it usually is this time of year, because of the World Baseball Classic. Oswalt, the likely ace of Team U.S.A., will leave Astros camp on March 2 to train in Clearwater, which means he’ll probably make only one start with the Astros before he takes off. Oswalt has been throwing to the baseball team at his old school, Holmes Community College, and reached 60 pitches the last time out. He should be fine, both for Team U.S.A. and for the Astros.

J.R. Towles didn’t have such a great experience at Winter Ball this year. Not only did he receive only 17 at-bats in five weeks with the Aguilas club in the Dominican League, he was the victim of theft after his hotel room was broken into while he took some time off to go home for Christmas. The manager at his hotel in Santiago, according to Towles, told him his belongings would be safe in his room while he was gone, but apparently, that wasn’t that case. Luggage and his wife’s clothes were among the many items missing when he returned. The experience left Towles with a bitter taste in his mouth, but he did walk away with a new appreciation for the Latin players who come to the United States to play. “I don’t know Spanish, and even ordering food took me sometimes 30 minutes,” Towles said. “I didn’t know how to tell them what I wanted and they didn’t know how to tell me what it was. I definitely gained an appreciation for what players have to go through here.”

What is it with the Astros and unsubstantiated rumors? First, it was Andy Pettitte “considering a lesser offer from the Astros” [not true]. Then it was the Astros making a move for Adam Dunn [also not true]. Now, the Astros have supposedly made an offer of around $2.5 million for Pudge Rodriguez, which, according to Ed Wade, has no validity whatsoever.

You wouldn’t believe how much information you can get from Wade in a three-minute conversation. You’d think more people would at least try it.

That said, after hearing Wade talk about the “11th hour” offers he made to Braden Looper and Randy Wolf, you have to wonder if the GM would at least be interested if Pudge’s asking price came down to, say, $1 million. Still, Wade really sounded like he wasn’t going to sign anyone else, and with the last two really quality free agent pitchers now off the table, I would have to believe that to be true.

Performance-enhancing drugs (let’s call them PED’s for short) are undoubtedly a hot topic in some Spring Training camps, but I can assure you the media covering the Astros would be more than happy if the subject was avoided all together. One local reporter brought it up in Cecil Cooper’s office this morning and you could practically hear the collective whisper — “here we go again.” Of course, there’s no chance we’re going to be able to put it off much longer, seeing Miguel Tejada is expected to be here on Tuesday. Should be interesting. He was smart not to take any questions the day of his court appearance last week (remember this is a legal issue) but eventually he’s going to have to talk. His sentencing is March 26, and afterward he might not be able to avoid the lingering questions that will follow him until he just stands up and gives some answers.

Brandon Backe will someday have a lot to say about his altercation with the Galveston Police last fall. He just can’t do it yet. But rest assured, he will.

On a completely unrelated note, this is what I love about Spring Training — all of the cynicism from the previous year is gone. Backe could not have had a worse ending to his season in ’08, yet after talking to him Saturday, I’m convinced he’s going to do what it takes this spring to make the rotation. He’s in great shape, feels strong and has a tremendous attitude. We’ll see how that translates.

Speaking of new beginnings, Cooper was completely at ease today — relaxed, comfortable, friendly.

Since my last trip to Kissimmee, a Pei Wei has opened in a shopping area I pass on my way to and from work. Things are definitely looking up.

Alyson

13 Comments

Alyson-

If Backe doesn’t make it as a pitcher this spring, is there any chance the Astros could try him in the field ala Rick Ankiel? I know he prides himself as an all-around ball player. Be a shame to lose a guy with such a fiery personality.

Great to hear you back on the radio.

I don’t think so, Kevin. Backe was converted into a pitcher around six years ago because his offense wasn’t good enough for a position player. So he’s going to have to figure out a way to make the pitching gig work.

Alyson??? You’re bloggin now?! What’s the world coming to? I know it’s because you’ll have a lot of time on your hands in the happening place of Kissimmee. ;) YEEHAW!!

-Austin

looking forward to more from your blog over the next couple of months, thanks. Any chance you might start a twitter account?

I just read an article that Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd thinks he can still bring it at 49. Is this senility setting in a little early? Should we consider giving him a looksy? ;) I know the Astros pitching is dismal, but hopefully we’re not that desperate.

lnewcomer: I think between my Inboxes, blogs and Facebook, there is plenty to keep the lines of communication open between myself and the readers. So no twittering for me anytime soon.

stonebutch99: Wouldn’t that be a hoot if Oil Can could still pitch effectively at an advanced age? Heck, Satchel Paige did it. Why not Boyd?

Alyson,
I like the blog idea, and I couldn’t have come at a better time. Spring training just makes me all around happy and the more info the better. I will be reading.

Also, I have two questions for you. 1)Considering you are there the entirety of ST, when would you say is the best time for a fan to go. I’m planning on spending at least a week in central Fl next Feb and plan to enjoy the sun and some baseball.

2) You probably get this alot, but what would say is the best avenue (if there is one) into entering a profession with a baseball organization. Not so much as a journalist, but a scout or front office type? Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. Oh, and post some pics if you could

Alyson – Re: Oswalt and the WBC. How will the WBC affect the Astros’ players that one might see at Spring Training, say, right about the middle of March? That’s a not-quite-rhetorical question! :-)

Oswalt fan: the best time to go depends on what you prefer, practices or games. The two weeks of workouts before the games start are terrific for the fans. You can see the players up close and most are really good about signing autographs when they’re done with their work for the day. Gates open at 9 a.m. and there is no charge. But if watching games is more your thing, you’ll have to come in March. Autographs are a little harder to come by, only because there are more fans to deal with, but again, players are good about signing. Your second question isn’t as cut and dried; there are many ways to get into baseball. Starting at the bottom is usually the route most have taken. Internships for front office hopefuls and scout school for that line of work.

Astrosfaninexile (is that you, Susan?): Roy’s leaving March 2 and will be with Team USA until they lose. That could mean he’d be away for about three weeks. Same goes for Lee and Tejada. I’m pretty sure those are the only three who will be gone for the Classic.

Hey Alyson – Yup, it’s Susan. We’re going to have what’s known euphemistically as a “wintry mix” tomorrow – sure wish I were already in Florida. One month from today…

With regard to Oswalt Fan’s question about when’s the best time to come to Spring Training, perhaps a fan (like me!) can give a few pointers. After all, you don’t have to choose – you get to go for the whole time! I posted “Five Things to Consider When Picking Dates for Astros Spring Training” on my Astros Fan in Exile website and blog today – that might be helpful.

Towles should talk to Morgan Ensberg and the other guys who were robbed at gunpoint at Astros Spring Training nine years ago! At least Towles wasn’t in the room when his stuff was stolen!

Alyson – I thought I heard Pence was also going to participate in the WBC? Am I wrong? I also have thoughts about when to come to spring training. The first year we came during the games and I really enjoyed it. But coming before games start is my favorite time. Just hanging out around the players during practice and talking with other avid fans is the best. Makes the players more personal somehow, like they are real people and not just multi-millionaires. I am now lucky enough to be retired, so I am here for the duration!

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