Spring Training, Day One: Pitchers, catchers and lots of facial hair.
Brett Myers was a target for reporters on Wednesday, which was to be expected considering the 30-year-old right-hander is now one of the elder statesman of this pitching staff. And, with a long-term commitment from the team, Myers also understands the added responsibility to serve as a camp-opening spokesman of sorts.
Myers has Roy Oswalt’s old locker, located at the front entrance, in the corner. The new digs were not lost on Myers, who quipped: “I don’t want this locker. The last guy who had it got traded.”
During a somewhat lengthy chat with reporters, Myers praised manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg for giving him some room to breathe and letting him be himself last year. “This coaching staff lets you have fun within your means,” he said. “So you do your thing and they let you be yourself. I didn’t have to mind my P’s and Q’s as much. They just let me be me and from there we had a good relationship.”
Other notable quotes:
Mills on new hitting coach Mike Barnett’s extensive coaching resume: “When he got this job, he didn’t have to call a lot of players. A lot of players called him. He works he tail off and rally cares about the hitters.”
Mills, on making sure pitchers pace themselves as they get ready for the season (using Wilton Lopez as an example): “We really put a lot on (Lopez) last year. He got tired and we had to sit him out for about four games last season. He loves to pitch and he loves to pitch every day. He’s such a workhorse and wants to do so much. We had to pull the reins back a little bit.”
On leadership in the clubhouse: “I tell the guys here, lead yourself. Everything you do, from the time you walk into the clubhouse to the time you go home…guys start rising to the top. Those are the ones who are going to be leaders.”
Random thoughts as we watch morning workouts:
* Pitchers and catchers were the only groups required to be at the Osceola County Stadium complex on Wednesday, but a slew of position players are here as well. It seems as if more and more players every year start arriving earlier, way ahead of the required report date. Most of them have been working out all winter anyway, and I would imagine it’s enticing to finally be able to get out of the weight room and onto some real baseball fields.
Among the early arrivals: Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace, Tommy Manzella, Jeff Keppinger (with crutches), Clint Barmes, Koby Clemens, Brian Dopirak, Anderson Hernandez, Jiovanni Mier, Brian Bogusevic, J.D. Martinez, J.B. Shuck. (That doesn’t mean there aren’t others, I just might not have seen them yet.)
* I keep getting the question, “Is it/will it be weird to go into the clubhouse and not see Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman there?” And I find myself giving different answers ranging from yes, it’s strange to no, I haven’t really given it much thought.
On my way to work this morning, it dawned on me that this is not even close to the first time that Spring Training has started and some sort of franchise icon is not there because he’s moved on or retired. At first, you see that his old locker is occupied someone else and say to yourself, “Hm. That’s kind of weird.” It lasts a few minutes, and that’s pretty much the end of it.
It was kind of weird for the first 10 minutes or so the spring after Jeff Bagwell retired, kind of weird for about the same amount of time after Craig Biggio was done, and the same goes for Brad Ausmus -- although Ausmus’ exodus was a little more upsetting, for a few reasons: 1)he was a fantastic quote and 2) watching the competition sprint over to Ausmus’s locker five seconds after I approached him was, without fail, wonderfully amusing. There was a fear that if you let someone talk to Ausmus without eavesdropping, that person will get material that was equal parts witty and insightful and over-the-top brilliant, and your stuff will stink.
One time I went over to Brad and said, “I have nothing to ask you. I just want to see how long it takes for everyone to freak out that I’m talking to you and they’re not.” The answer — and the competition — usually arrived in under 10 seconds.
* It took a while to do this, but we’ve officially changed our Twitter profile dedicated to Astros witticisms from PumaOneLiners to AstrosOneLiners. As much as it pains me to do so, “Puma” has moved on, and so shall we. To ease the pain, I dug up my favorite shot of CJ and Castro from the Rookie Road Trip last year and am using that as the new AstrosOneLiners avatar.
And with that, enjoy the images from Camp Astros, Day One…
Drayton McLane watches the team work out from behind the protective fence.
J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon throw bullpens, under Arnsberg’s watchful eye.
Jeff Keppinger won’t start the season on time, but he arrived to Kissimmee plenty early.