Snapshots from Spring Training, Day Three.

A month ago, it looked as if catcher Jason Castro, who had two injury setbacks over the course of one calendar year, might not be ready to start the season when Opening Day rolls around on April 6.

Today, the level of optimism is much higher. It’s more likely than not that Castro, who had season-ending knee surgery last Spring Training and foot surgery this past December, is on track to start the season on time.

This isn’t to say that he’s maintaining the same workout pace as the other catches in camp. He’s not. He’s participating in drills and catching bullpens, but on a slightly lesser scale than the rest. The goal is for him to build stamina without overextending himself, even if it means not being quite ready to play when the Grapefruit season gets underway in another 10 days.

Regardless of when Castro appears in his first spring game, the catching situation this year, so far, is light years ahead of where the team was a year ago. There is no stat line that can truly describe how valuable a catcher is to a team. He’s top lieutenant on the field and can provide a huge sense of security to pitchers. On the flip side, if a catcher is inadequate in his ability to call games and block pitches in the dirt, it can wreak havoc on a pitcher’s psyche.

Castro’s return will be a big lift for the team, and the addition of Chris Snyder, a veteran catcher, should not be overlooked. The Astros now have three catchers in a pool that also includes veteran Humberto Quintero, giving them experience, depth and a plan B. They pretty much had none of those things  a year ago.

A couple of housekeeping notes:

* The final Houston-based Astroline will air on Thursday at Buffalo Wild Wings in Midtown. Former outfielder Kevin Bass will join Milo Hamilton for the hour-long show, which can be heard on 740 KTRH and

Astroline will resume the following week on Feb. 29 at the Disney Boardwalk in Orlando. Keeping with tradition, the first Florida-based show will feature manager Brad Mills.

* The first full-squad workout will be held Feb. 26, and as always, workouts are free and open to the public. Gates open around 9:30 a.m. The first Grapefruit League game will take place at Osceola County Stadium on March 3 vs. the Nationals. Workouts on home game days are closed.

* Two spring games will be televised this year: March 20 vs. the Cardinals and April 3 vs. the White Sox (at Minute Maid Park).

And we conclude with images from Day 3 on a cloudy but rain-free morning at the spring complex:

Brian Bogusevic, Jed Lowrie

Practicing fielding comebackers: Brad Mills and Kyle Weiland.

Having some between-drills laughs: Jose Altuve, roving minor league baserunning coordinator Milt Thompson, Jimmy Paredes, Jose Cruz.

PFP: Bud Norris.

Two former first-rounders: Delino DeShields (2010) and George Springer (2011).

Batting practice: J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve.

Jimmy Paredes waves to a fan.

Brandon Lyon and Jason Castro discuss Lyon's bullpen session when it ended.

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Lets see who has the most aggressive approach to the game out of the young position players when spring training games begins guys

I notice the scout be observing every move that goes on in diamond 1,2,3,and 4 guys not bad

I hadn’t thought about Astroline…will Milo continue to moderate after 2012?

I was hoping Mr Crane would televise MORE Spring Training games, why is it a lot of teams show almost all of theirs and we are stuck with 2 a year? Showing the games would help the fans get to KNOW these younger players and watch them develop and show some fire of wanting to hustle and make the big club out of Spring Training. I remember that the Astros used to televise a LOT more Spring games, give us more!

We’d love to have all games televised. It’s an FS Houston decision, not an Astros decision. When the new Comcast network starts after this season, it will be an Astros decision and you will see many more Spring Training games starting in ’13.

What a good job she does for the Astros at Osceola County Stadium =)

Can’t wait to get there. Family is headed down to our 7th Spring Training season the 7th of March! Ready for some BASEBALL!! Come see us, we will be on the wall by the bullpen.

Had a quick question do they have a Minor League game schedule yet? Our family will be coming down again this year. Got a chance to see the Double-A and Triple-A teams play against the Nationals affiliates.

Check this out. 3,379 people have voted on this Houston Chronicle poll and 97% of them oppose the removal of the pistol from the Colt .45s jersey. I hope MLB and the Astros reconsider their decision.

Hi, I’m David. I love your blog. It’s very interesting and well written. I was wondering if you could check mine out. I’m a kid who just started to blog. Please comment advice.

I was the first caller on Astroline tonight and when I asked Milo Hamilton about removing the pistol from the Colt .45s jersey he said it was because of a lawsuit with the Colt Co. I think he’s thinking of the suit in 1965 or else MLB could not be selling Colt 45s jerseys in the Cooperstown Collection. When I tried to ask him why you and Mr. Acosta have each said it was a decision made by MLB because the pistol is deemed “inappropriate” and “in poor taste” he cut me off and hung up. What is the story here? Is Mr. Hamilton telling the truth about some lawsuit that has heretofore not been mentioned or is he confused?

James, I didn’t listen to the show so I can’t speak to the exchange with Milo. You are correct in that there was a lawsuit in the ’60s about the Colt .45 name with the Colt Co. The decision to not put the pistol on the uniforms on our throwback days this year is unrelated to that. It was an MLB decision. The rest of the uniform will look exactly like the original, down to the logos and colors and insignia.

Thanks, and sorry about the confusion.


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