Spring Training is fun for fans, but for young players, its serious business.
In any given offseason, it is not at all unusual to find a large crop of Astros players working out four or five days a week in the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park.
After all, Houston is often a permanent landing spot for players after they play a few seasons here. Plenty have moved here over the years, making a daily stop at the home ballpark an easy part of their daily routine.
What impressed me this year was how many players who don’t live in Houston year-round have chosen to do so, solely for the purpose of working out regularly with teammates and strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman. A slew of young players have been here all or parts of the offseason, including Bud Norris (a California native), Chris Johnson (Florida) and Brian Bogusevic (Chicago), along with full-time residents Hunter Pence, Humberto Quintero and Wandy Rodriguez. Brett Wallace was also due to town at some point this week.
It especially makes sense for Bogusevic to be here, considering he’ll be fighting for a job on the Major League roster this spring, and working out at all outdoors in Chicago is pretty much out of the question. In Houston, he has use of the gym facility as well as the MMP field, so staying here for the offseason was probably a good move.
Bogusevic was the guest on Astroline on Wednesday, and as expected, a lot of the questions surrounded his chances to win a job this year. Drafted as a pitcher in 2005, Bogusevic was converted to an outfielder in 2008 and pretty much had to start over in terms of working his way up the Minor League food chain. The Astros would like to see him separate himself from the pack this year and show he can play on the Major League level, and they’re prepared to give him every chance to do so during Spring Training.
Bogusevic, right, with Milo Hamilton at Astroline
That said, a lot still has to go “right” for Bogusevic to be given that chance. Should Wallace win the first baseman’s job during Spring Training, that will push Carlos Lee back to left field, which would diminish — but not eliminate — Bogusevic’s odds to make the team. The club still needs a fifth outfielder, and the left-handed hitting Bogusevic would have the inside track to win that job, with Jason Michaels serving as the right-handed hitting bat off the bench.
Should Wallace not have a good spring, that could push Lee to first base, which would open up left field and a possible platoon situation with Michaels and Bogusevic. Others will be competing for outfield jobs as well.
What does this mean? Bogusevic can expect to get a lot of Spring Training at-bats, which means he’ll be taking a ton of bus trips (and by a ton, I mean, all).
And that’s fine with him. “I’ll play when they tell me to play,” he said during the Astroline broadcast. “If I’m playing, it means no one else is. I’ll take any playing time I can get.”
Other interesting nuggets that emerged from the show:
* Bogusevic and Tommy Manzella are entering their ninth season as teammates. They played three years together at Tulane, were drafted by the Astros the same year (’05) and have played every level of the Minor Leagues together.
* Bogusevic took three official visits to colleges when he was decided where he wanted to go: Illinois, Notre Dame and Tulane. It came down to climate. Southern schools can start playing right after the first of the year and the conditions are usually comfortable. Northern schools deal with rain and snow until about halfway through the season, which can thwart development. “The amount of time you can put in working on baseball, it’s a better situation in the south than it is in the north,” he said.
* Transitioning from pitching to playing a position can’t be done overnight. There are stamina issues that require players to ease into the new role. The Astros laid out a physical plan for Bogusevic that lasted about two months:
“I started off with a week of just practicing,” he said. “When you start playing games, it was three innings, sit the rest of the game, then five innings, sit, then take a day off. Once I built up to play nine innings at a time, it was, one game on, one game off. Then two games on, one game off.”
Couple more images from Astroline:
Bogusevic signing autographs for fans during commercial breaks.
Cute family alert — the Foremans: Scott, Seantele, Spencer and Shane. Any married couple who chooses to spend their 20th wedding anniversary at Astroline deserves a mention, wouldn’t you agree?
Getting married? Read on.
The Astros Special Events team will have a booth at the Bridal Extravaganza this weekend on Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at the George R. Brown Convention Center to promote opportunities for weddings, rehearsal dinners, bachelor outings, and portrait sessions.
The Astros encourage attendees to visit booth #4005. They are offering discounts on portrait sessions should you come and visit with us at the event.