Astros notes: early BP, Martinez, The Regulators and free Altuve autographs (coming soon).
Taking early batting practice is pretty standard when a team is on the road, but normally, only a handful of players are present for the drill. Early BP, during which a team reserves the field prior to the home team taking it over for their daily practice, is normally designed for bench players looking to get some extra swings in, or regular players trying to work through some soreness or a slump, or young players looking for some extra time in the cage.
According to manager Brad Mills, attendance was a lot higher for early BP on Friday in Pittsburgh, enough for three hitting groups. That can partly be attributed to the weather — it was one of those picture-perfect sunny days, around 70 degrees with no humidity. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly a destination spot for ballplayers (although I’ve always said it’s a very underrated city, and great for baseball), so most were probably ready to head to the ballpark early, anyway. Players also like to get some extra swings in after an offday, which could also explain the crowd this time.
One of the participants was J.D. Martinez, who you’ve probably noticed was dropped in the order a few days ago and then omitted from the lineup more recently. Martinez carried an 0-for-21 streak to Pittsburgh and wasn’t in the starting lineup for Friday’s opener.
Mills said reinserting Martinez into the lineup is “coming up pretty quick,” after he gives the outfielder a chance to clear his head.
“I think he’s getting to where he needs to be,” Mills said.
Meanwhile, Mills tried something new with the lineup, sliding Jose Altuve into the three-hole for the first time and moving Jed Lowrie back up to two.
Until Friday, there were four players who had batted third this season: Martinez (23 games), Lowrie (five games), Travis Buck (two games) and Brian Bogusevic (one game).
“There are a lot of things I like about it,” Mills said of the Lowrie-Altuve tandem. “I talked to Jed and Altuve about it and they were all in.”
Mills also hinted he may keep them there for the remainder of this series.
Brett Myers refers to the bullpen corps as “The Regulators” and often heaps praise on his ‘pen mates after the Astros nail down close wins. How do I know this? Why, I follow Myers on Twitter, of course.
Myers, who goes by the Twitter handle @TheOutlaw39, is one of several players who signed up at some point this season. Another newcomer is reliever Wilton Lopez, who can be found in Twitterland at @lopezwilton59.
Altuve will sign autographs (free of charge) at the Team Store at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, May 19 from 1 to 2 p.m. CT. Autographs are not guaranteed, so the Astros encourage you get there early. We will send out several reminders leading up to the event.
An Astros player will sign autographs at no charge on Saturday per month at the Team Store throughout the season.
Finally, we went with a smile-and-be-happy theme to today’s photo album. Batting practice, at beautiful PNC Park: