Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

One-day sale starts now. Secure your Opening Day and Red Sox tickets here.

Before we head out to Disney for the Grapefruit League opener between the Astros and Braves, here’s a friendly reminder about today’s one-day sale that will allow for you to secure Opening Day and Red Sox tickets.

The special is called the Opening Day 6-Game Plan, where you purchase six tickets for the price of five. The plan includes the home opener (April 8 vs. the Marlins), plus your choice of one game against each of these opponents: Mets, Rangers, Red Sox, Giants and
Cardinals.

The sale is taking place today, and today only. For further details, and to secure your tickets, please click on this link.

Now, off to Disney…

Spring games = meaningless games? Don’t tell that to Brett Wallace.

While reading this Brian McTaggart feature on Brett Wallace, it occurred to me that this year’s slate of spring games carry enough intrigue to hold even my attention.

Oh, sure, spring games are interesting, at times, and wholly entertaining for the fans, all of the time. But with more than 30 games on the schedule, suffice it to say that after a while, they become, well, varying degrees of dull.

However, I don’t think I’m going to get that restless feeling again this year. We’ve got some pretty interesting story lines running through Astros camp, beginning with Wallace, the player everyone hopes will be the Opening Day first baseman.

But he still has to win the job.

I’ve gone on the record as saying that Wallace will have to be a complete spring flop to not make the team. I still believe that to be true, so if he shows he can hit a little bit this spring and hold his own against big league pitching (which is a bit watered down during the Grapefruit season), mark him down for first base on April 1.

The projected 2011 Astros’ lineup is peppered with players with tremendous upsides and no track records. I am looking forward to seeing Jason Castro come into his own and Chris Johnson build on his tremendous rookie season in ’10. But most of my attention is directed toward Wallace, whom the Astros hope is here to stay.

______________

Most of the coaching staff picked Meach’s Mashers to win the Intrasquad game on Sunday, but Clarkie’s Crushers pulled off the upset, taking the six-inning matchup by a score of 5-1. Koby Clemens, who knocked a moon shot off Matt Lindstrom during last year’s Intrasquad game, hit another homer this time around, capping a 3-for-3 day while being named Intrasquad MVP.

“He has this intrasquad day circled on his calendar probably on New Year’s Day,” manager Brad Mills quipped.

On the other side of the diamond, J.B. Shuck also was 3-for-3, with a triple. Other notables: Tommy Manzella was 1-for-3 and made a fantastic diving stop while playing third base; Jay Austin was 3-for-3, Carlos Corporan was 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.

The Astros open the Grapefruit League season on Monday at Disney, and expect a lot of the projected Opening Day starting lineup to be there, for no other reason than Disney’s a 20-minute drive away, and thus, a favorite spot for the veteran players.

Every Astros Spring Training game in 2011 will be broadcast on either flagship station KTRH 740 AM, or KBME 790 AM. Hall of Famer Milo Hamilton and the dashing and delightful Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond bring the action at all Spring home games while Dolan and Raymond handle the Spring road broadcasts.
_______________

As we gear up for a brand new week, here are some images from a full slate of weekend activities at Osceola County Stadium:

Milo was dressed to the nines the day he reported to Spring Training….

0226_milo.jpg

…but he was considerably cooler the next day, with temps reaching the upper 80s.

0227_intra_milo_mills.jpg

McTaggart stages his own photo shoot for a story he’s working on about three young prospects: J.B. Shuck, T.J. Steele and Jon Gaston.

0227_tags_three.jpg

Players take a water break after running drills on the back fields.

0227_water_break.jpg

Outfielders enjoy a little comic relief after practice.

0227_lee_bour_laugh.jpg

Images from the Intrasquad game:

0227_intra_dugout.jpg

0227_intra_myers.jpg

0227_intra_martinez_plate.jpg

0227_intra_towles_meach.jpg

Dave Clark, manager of the winning Clarkie’s Crushers, gets a water cooler shower from Javier Bracamonte.

0227_clarkie_water1.jpg

0227_clarkie_water12.jpg

Astros are on Facebook
Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter
Check out Astros witticisms at AstrosOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

Need Astros-Red Sox tickets? Might want to check out this one-day offer.

If you’re looking for a way to score Opening Day tickets and tickets to one of the games with the Red Sox in July, the Astros have a new offer on the table that you might find helpful.

They’re holding a one-day sale on Monday, where you can purchase the Opening Day 6-game plan for the price of five games. The plan includes the Home Opener (April 8 vs. Marlins), plus your choice of one game against each of these opponents: Mets, Rangers, Red Sox,Giants and Cardinals.

The plans start at $35 and this appears to be your best way to secure tickets for what will likely be the two most sought-after spots on the schedule: Opening Day, and the Interleague series against the Red Sox.

Again, this sale is taking place on Monday, and Monday only. Here’s the link that explains the promotion, and that will the same link you’ll need to go to when the sale begins.

______________

Our blog software appears to have hit some technical difficulties, so the pictures I planned to post today will have to wait until Sunday. Thanks for your patience and please check back for all of the up-to-date images from Kissimmee. Thank you!
________________

(UPDATE 8:33 ET: we’re up and running again)

I asked our Community Development folks the exact name of the autograph session they held at the ballpark Friday and Saturday, and the best we could come up with is the Annual Houston Astros Company-wide, All-encompassing Mass Autograph Session. Or something like that.

In layman’s terms, the Astros have thousands of items shipped to their spring home every year, and for two days, players are asked to drop by, sit at a station designated just for them, and sign, sign, sign.

How many items needed to be signed? To be exact: 3,997. The breakdown: 2,749 balls, 108 bats, 120 jerseys, 1,020 cards.

Most of the items will be used for auctions, grab bags, charitable donations and fundraising for the Astros in Action Foundation. They’ll also need some for sponsorship, marketing and in-game promotions.

An increase in fundraising and charitable giving in recent years and caused the number of items needed to be signed to spike considerably. In 2008, they had 1,340 items signed. In 2009, 1,461.

So, if you win a prize this season, or buy something in a silent auction, it probably was signed here:

That’s Mark Melancon all by himself in the middle of the room:

0226_autograph_room.jpg
 
Bud Norris

0226_norris_auto.jpg

Wandy Rodriguez

0226_wandy_autograph_room.jpg

Astros are on Facebook
Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter
Check out Astros witticisms at AstrosOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

Focus Friday: Hunter Pence

0225_pence_ff.jpg

What is Hunter Pence’s favorite meal, when he’s not at the Buffalo Grille? Who has had the biggest influence on his life? What was the first concert he attended?

Welcome to Focus Friday, where we get to the bottom of things regarding your favorite Astros, while talking as little about baseball as possible. Consider Focus Friday a getting-to-know-you session, where we learn about the player — not as a player, but as a person.

The fun twist? The questions come from you, not us. Every week, we’ll ask our Twitter followers to send in their questions, and then we’ll pick the best of the bunch. You can find the video version on Twitter, and a transcript right here on this blog.

We caught up with Hunter during the Astros’ annual sign-everything-in-sight autograph session, hosted by the Community Development department. As you can see from the photo above, there were a few things on Hunter’s proverbial plate. This interview created a nice diversion.
_________________

@vitaliano10: What are your thoughts on professional athletes using Social Media things like Twitter and Facebook?

@HunterPence9: I think it’s awesome. Even for me personally, I love sports and I love competing. I enjoy following some of the players in other leagues. I enjoy, whenever we do fantasy football, following my guys that are going to bring me through. I love hearing what they have to say. I get kind of excited when (Baltimore Ravens running back) Ray Rice is talking about his knee or the game or whatever it may be. I think it’s a great tool that we never had as
kids to really talk to our fans. For me personally, it’s getting feedback from the fans, being able to tell them certain things, kind of giving them an aspect of our personality they wouldn’t otherwise get.

@irishndude4: What are your top three road trip cities, judging by the stadium, city, etc.?

@HunterPence9: That’s a great question because I’ve never had it asked as a whole — the stadium and the city. It’s kind of a counterbalance. You could say that Chicago’s awesome, but the field and what we have to go through there is horrible. Well, it’s not horrible, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable locker room.

I love San Francisco’s stadium. It’s not necessarily hitter-friendly but the view, the bay, the energy of the fans…I’ve always liked that city. Obviously they’re not very nice to me, but they’re passionate about baseball. They’re throwing cans with strings trying to steal the balls from batting practice. We have (bullpen assistant) Strech Suba who gets mad at you if you throw a ball into the stands. So it’s a constant war and it’s kind of fun.

Also, San Diego, just because it’s such nice weather. You walk around the city in the morning, go to breakfast…there’s a mall, you can get a haircut.

The third one, I’m going to say Chicago, even though the locker room’s not that great. The city’s cool, and when you play the Cubs, the fans are wild and rowdy. There’s an intensity on the field just from what they bring. They’re packed in and they’re yelling at you and you want to prove them wrong.

@esandler: First concert? Favorite burger? Dream car? Best vacation?

@HunterPence9: (First concert) I don’t know if I want to admit this. I was in junior high or high school. I want to say it was Sugar Ray or something. There were a bunch of teenage girls there.

(Favorite burger) Grass-fed. We grilled out last night, actually, Cowboy Burgers from Whole Foods. It’s good stuff. We had a bunch of guys over last night. The new guy we picked up, Brian Dopirak, who’s in camp with us this year — he’s an amazing cook. Amazing griller. We’re just going to Whole Foods every day, it’s like our new tradition. We eat lunch, pick up a bunch of stuff, invite whoever wants to come over and we grill out every night.

(Dream car) I’m not much of a car guy. What I like — I would never buy one no matter what I make because I know it’s a waste of money, but I like Lamborghinis and Ferraris because they look cool. I don’t know enough about cars and I don’t think I would ever drive either one. I just like the look of them.

(Best vacation) I’m not a good person to ask, I’m not a vacation guy. I haven’t been on too many vacations. I would want to go to the wineries in Napa Valley. That’s somewhere I want to go.  

@benjamintitter: Who has had the most impact in your life? What did you learn from them?

@HunterPence9: I’ve had a lot of great impacts on my life. I think everyone, in whatever they do, needs a mentor, someone that’s been through something that you want to do. You should look for one and a lot of the people that have gone pretty far should be mentors to the younger kids coming up in your field, whatever it may be.

Obviously, my brother (Howie) has had the biggest impact. He’s four years old than me. A lot of older brothers would have kicked their younger brother to the curb. But he’s been my coach and my sidekick the whole way through. He’s my biggest fan and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him.

There’s been a lot of them along the way. (Darin) Erstad was a big mentor when I made it to the Major Leagues. I still look up to that guy and his values — he’s just a great individual. Orlando Palmeiro is another one that took me along when I was a rookie. He sat next to me every time on the airplane. We played cards, talked hitting. I still talk to him today. Those were my baseball mentors.

@therealxAndrew: What does a day look like during the season? Do you have time for friends/family? Are you able to shop for food without being hounded by fans?

@HunterPence9: Fans don’t really hound me. They’re really nice. If a fan runs up to me and just wants an autograph or picture…how could I be upset when someone’s like, “We like the way you play, keep playing the game the right way.” I don’t mind that. I can go anywhere, do anything. It’s just if I have the energy and the time. It’s all about conserving your energy.

Generally I just wake up, I go eat a big breakfast. I don’t really have time to drive to go hang out with my family but sometimes they come over, sometimes they meet me for breakfast. I might play chess, cards, whatever. Watch videos and start getting ready for the game.

@mom2boystx: Besides Buffalo Grille, what’s your favorite type of food?

@HunterPence9: I have a passion for just healthy food. I’m learning to cook from Brian Dopirak this Spring Training. It’s something I haven’t had time to do or someone to teach me. My mom, if she was around, I’ve done it with her a few times. I like fish, I like vegetables, I like colorful salads. Steakhouses would be one of my favorites. I enjoy sushi. Just anything that’s healthy and fresh.

@luckiexstar: If you could be a rock star for a day, what band would you play for and where do you want to perform?

@HunterPence9: If I’m a rock star for one day I definitely want to perform in L.A. If I was going to be a rock band — this is actually a concert I want to go to and haven’t been able to go to — in their prime, Metallica. The song I would play would be “One.” Just to hear the drum solo and the guitar solo going back and forth at the end. That would probably be the most adrenaline I could get on stage, or even in the crowd. So, Metallica for sure.

@lolunix: What music will you be using this year to com
e up to bat?

@HunterPence9: I have not decided yet. I don’t think we’re going to go cheesy just yet. Unless the team needs a rally. Kesha, Fergie, that type thing. At the start of the year it’s probably going to be some rock. Maybe some Godsmack, Slipknot, Korn, Tool. Something to that effect.

Behind the scenes at Photo Day, and the Draft: Meach’s Mashers vs. Clarkie’s Crushers.

0224_pence_sign.jpg

People who have been in baseball for a number of decades will remember a
time when Photo Day was a long, grueling, never-ending process
involving, oftentimes, dozens and dozens of photographers.

Today,
the photographer pool, and the companies that employ them, have shrunk
considerably. That can be attributed to a few things — fewer baseball
card companies, fewer newspapers, smaller (or non-existent)
budgets. Still, there are many media outlets that need full sets of
headshots of Major League baseball players. And they have exactly one day to obtain them.

Photo
Day involves credentialed photographers lining up in a room and
shooting every player, manager, coach and select members of the support
staff. Basically, anyone who has a chance to be on a ballpark
video board or make the news in any capacity has his picture taken on
Photo Day.

The process begins with the player holding up a sign
with his name on it. That identifies who he is — a vital step when you
consider the thousands of images that will be entered into a
database. Then the player poses for three or four more pictures with
each photographer, going from station to station until the process is complete.

0224_photoday_barmes.jpg

Photographers
from seven media entities attended the Astros’ Photo Day on Thursday:
Getty Images, Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, VIP Photo, MLB Photos
and Topps, as well as a freelance photographer that the Astros hire to snap photos for their files.

The
headshots will eventually end up in media guides, newspapers and game
programs; on video boards, baseball cards and web sites.

Photo
Day is also vital to the team’s ballpark entertainment staff. They shoot
the players in front of a “green screen,” and those videos will
eventually turn into the cool graphics you see on the scoreboard during lineup introductions before games start.

Here
are a few images from Photo Day, and for a video tour of the event,
click here
(with special thanks to media relations rep Sally Gunter for
the early-morning footage that captures the photographers setting up for the big day).

Clint Barmes
0224_photoday_barmes1.jpg
Jason Bourgeois
0224_photoday_bourg.jpg

Brian Bogusevic
0224_photoday_bogu.jpg
Wesley Wright
0224_photoday_wright.jpg

_____________

As
a warmup to the first Grapefruit League game, the Astros will play an
Intrasquad game on Sunday at 11 a.m. on one of the backfields at Osceola
County Stadium. The teams, managed by first base coach Bobby
Meacham
(Meach’s Mashers) and third base coach Dave Clark (Clarkie’s
Crushers), were selected during a “draft” Thursday morning following the daily coaches meeting.

The
regular starters will not play in the Intrasquad game (to avoid
needless injuries) and will instead work out that day as they normally
do. The rest of the spring roster was eligible for the draft,
and manager Brad Mills’ instructions for the big game were two-fold:
have fun, and feel free to trash talk.

Meacham won the coin flip
and opted to defer his first pick to Clark, in order to be able to
draft a pitcher first. Clark drafted Brian Bogusevic, and Meacham followed by selecting Fernando Abad.

The
not-so-top-secret meeting was opened to the Social Media contingent,
which consists of one person (yours truly). We captured the essence of
the draft — a coin-flip and a bunch of confusing rules I couldn’t follow – in this video, along with these photos:

0224_draft_clarkie.jpg

0224_draft_laugh.jpg
0224_intra_board.jpg

Wednesday roundup: running, running and more running.

0223_carlos_conditioning.jpg

Wednesday’s workouts were slightly shorter than normal because the pitchers, who have been either throwing bullpens or live batting practice every day, were given a day of rest. Instead, manager Brad Mills went heavy on the conditioning drills at the end of the session, which mixed up the routine a little bit and kept things interesting.

I’ll say this about Carlos Lee: he provides plenty of comic relief during these workouts. The conditioning drills were pretty rigorous on Wednesday and involved a lot more than simply jogging from point A to point B. In the middle of outfield sprints, Carlos dropped to the ground, laid on his back, legs and arms spread, and feigned passing out. I think I heard him yell “Trainer!” more than once. The best part was watching everyone ignore him, followed by his teammates simply jumping over him as they finished their sprints. Funny stuff.

_____________

Pitchers will resume throwing live BP on Thursday, and the Astros will play an Intrasquad game Sunday on Field 1 at 11 a.m. The game will be open to the public.

_____________

Quotable:

Mills, on if the rotation order is set:

“No, no, not at all yet. We come up and read in the paper some clubs are already announcing their rotation for the season. This is just our club I’m talking about, but if we start to make those plans now, we don’t know what’s going to happen as far as injuries, how guys throw the ball, how guys do things.

“We’re going to utilize this time to the best of our ability to kind of let guys get in shape and do the things they need to do to be ready. There’s enough first time through that we can kind of map things through later.”

Infielder Bill Hall (who arrived to camp Wednesday after the birth of his daughter Sydni):

“As expected, I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. Once that new year turns over, everybody starts thinking baseball. Watching Baseball Network for the past month and a half, I’ve been mentally ready with anticipation. I’m excited. Obviously, being around a group of guys with so much talent, a lot of youth. I kind of had this kind clubhouse in Milwaukee, so I feel like I’ll fit in just fine. And I’m excited about what this team can do.”

______________

Throughout the spring season, we’ll be posting one-on-one, getting-to-know you interviews (hosted by yours truly) on Astros.com. Our first one, with third baseman Chris Johnson, is up and running, and you can find it here.

Next up: Bud Norris.

______________

Today’s photo gallery:

Bunting practice: Jason Bourgeois…

0223_bourg.jpg
…and Michael Bourn…

0223_bourn.jpg

…and J.B. Shuck.

0223_shuck.jpg

Chris Johnson, all smiles while warming up.

0223_cj_smile.jpg

Bill Hall

0223_hall.jpg

J.A. Happ, Brett Myers

0223_happ_myers.jpg

Jason Michaels, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee during batting practice.

0223_jmike_hunt_lee.jpg

Pence and Lee in the cages earlier in the morning.

0223_lee_pence_cage.jpg

Ed Wade, Brad Mills

0223_wade_mills.jpg

Morning news and notes: Pitching schedules, Twitter Tuesday, Focus Friday, and today’s links.

The Astros announced on Tuesday that Wandy Rodriguez will start the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 28 at Atlanta, while Brett Myers will pitch the next day when the Astros host the Braves in their first spring game of the season.

The Braves have Derek Lowe scheduled for the first game and Tommy Hanson for the second.

While Wandy is opening the spring season, I would not assume that translates into the same order when the regular season begins. The Spring Training pitching order is mapped out so that pitchers throw every fifth day and wind up making their first start of the season on that same schedule. If you count out the days from Myers first Grapefruit start, it would put him on schedule to start April 1 in Philadelphia. Not a coincidence.

As for the rest of the rotation order, that has yet to be announced. Stay tuned.

______________

Thanks to everyone who participated in #TwitterTuesday. The contest didn’t last long thanks to @austincory ‘s very prompt correct answer, but we still had a nice flow of guesses come in and I appreciate the interaction.

For those who missed it, every Tuesday at noon CT throughout Spring Training, I’ll post a Google-free, can’t-find-it-on-the-internet, won’t-be-able-to-look-it-up-on-baseballreference.com trivia question on my Twitter, and the first correct answer tweeted back to me
wins two free tickets to any Astros home game this season, with the exception of Opening Day, the Red Sox series and the final homestand of the season.

Yesterday’s question was: What is Chris Johnson’s favorite can’t-miss television show? The answer, which we first posted here in video form, was Entourage.

Next Tuesday, we’ll ask a different question of a different player and you can guess as many times as you want. The only requirement is you have to be following me on Twitter to participate.

_______________

In addition to Twitter Tuesday, we’ve also added another new feature — Focus Friday. For this, we’ll ask an Astros player a handful off-the-field, non-baseball related questions that give some insight to him away from the game.

We’ll video the interview and post it on Twitter, and we’ll also provide a transcript on this blog. This is where the fun part comes in — the questions asked will come from you. I received some really good ones on Twitter yesterday for Hunter Pence, and we’ll sift through those, pick the best five or 10, and post them on Friday.

I’ll send out another alert next week when we’ve determined who we’ll be featuring in Focus Friday.

Miscellany:

* The Astros have teamed up with the Florida Blood Centers to host a blood drive prior to the March 3 game vs. the Florida Marlins at Osceola County Stadium. The blood drive will take place from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., and donors will receive a free Astros special edition t-shirt, as well as a voucher for a free ticket to one of two pre-selected Spring Training games (while supplies last)…donors must be at least 16 years old and weigh 102 pounds to be eligible to donate and a photo ID is required.

* Two Astros Spring games will be broadcast on FS Houston: March 18 at the Marlins and March 19 vs. the Cardinals.

________________

On to the links…

MLB.com:

Clint Barmes knew only the Colorado Rockies until he was traded to Houston last year. The shortstop welcomes a new beginning, he tells Brian McTaggart.

Lots of interesting information in this notebook, including who the Astros’ player representatives are this year, Fernando Abad’s role as he competes for a spot on the roster and Nelson Figueroa’s loss of his grandfather.

Chronicle:

The Astros find plenty of talent on the waiver wire. Zachary Levine gives a brief history of the club’s recent wire acquisitions.

It’s Twitter Tuesday, and we’re giving away tickets.

0222_twitter.jpg

Baseball fans and trivia contests are as natural a pairing as pine tar
and Craig Biggio’s batting helmets, so we’ve decided to make those
contests a weekly presence, beginning today.

Every Tuesday,
we’re going to post a question on Twitter, and the first person to tweet
back the correct answer will win two free tickets to any game this
season, with the exception of Opening Day (April 8), the Red Sox series
(July 1-3) and the final homestand of the season (Sept. 22-28).

But there’s a twist. This isn’t a garden-variety trivia contest. While we’re calling this Twitter Tuesday, the full, unabridged, official name of this contest is Google-free, can’t-find-it-on-the-internet, won’t-be-able-to-look-it-up-on-baseballreference.com Twitter Tuesday.

In
other words, we’ll be digging deep and asking the real probing
questions that you’ve always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Who needs Hunter Pence’s
career OPS when you can find out what he had for dinner three nights
ago? Or what his very first job was in high school? Or how he likes his
eggs cooked?

Google-free, can’t-find-it-on-the-internet,
won’t-be-able-to-look-it-up-on-baseballreference.com Twitter Tuesday
will be conducted exclusively through my Twitter profile, so if you’re
not following, please go to http://www.twitter.com/alysonfooter. We’ll post the question at noon CT every Tuesday, and the first correct answer wins.
_____________

Linkage:

MLB.com:

Brian McTaggart introduces us to the Astros’ two Rule 5 picks, Lance Pendleton and Aneury Rodriguez.

In
this notebook, we learn that Michael Bourn is working on his bunting
this spring, and Tommy Manzella is expanding his versatility by trying
his hand at second and third.

Chronicle:

Zachary Levine writes that 2009 first-round pick Jio Mier added 20 pounds of bulk, much to the team’s delight.

Pitchers throw live batting practice, hitters a little flummoxed

0221_abad.jpg

The first day that pitchers throw to hitters during a live batting practice session is always a little entertaining (if you’re a pitcher), a little befuddling (if you’re a hitter) and not at all telling as to how these guys will perform in another five weeks (if you’re the manager).

Pitchers have a four-day head start on position players, and while that might not seem like a long time, it is. Pitchers have had a head start, getting their arms loose, throwing bullpens and slowly getting back into a (very preliminary) rhythm. Hitters, no matter how well-conditioned they are when they show up to camp and how much they’ve been hitting in the cages over the winter, are nowhere near where they will be in a few more weeks in terms of timing and simply shaking off the rust.

Fifteen pitchers threw live BP: LHPs Fernando Abad (pictured above), J.A. Happ, Sergio Escalona, Wandy Rodriguez, Wesley Wright; and RHPs Jeff Fulchino, Arcenio Leon, Wilton Lopez, Jordan Lyles, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Lance Pendleton, Aneury Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez Jr. and Henry Villar.

The Astros will have similar workouts throughout the week, and next Sunday, in anticipation of the first Grapefruit League game the next day, will play an Intrasquad game. These usually run 5 1/2 innings and will likely be the first time the team plays on the main field at Osceola County Stadium.
_____________

Did you know? Hitting coach Mike Barnett was Michael Jordan’s hitting coach at AA Birmingham in 1994. Barnett recalled how focused Jordan was, no matter what the task at hand: “That type of competitiveness, that type of work ethic, he was just a joy to work with every day.”
_____________

Quotable:

General Manager Ed Wade, on what has surprised him about camp:

“I just think the whole tone and tenor has been very, very positive. I think part of it flows from the staff and the attention to detail as regard to the schedule, and Millsie preaching energy to the staff during the eight o’clock meeting before they ever go out onto the field to interact with the players.  Let’s keep the energy up. I think a lot of it flows from the approach they’ve taken. It hasn’t been a case of any particular player standing out. It’s a case of the guys collectively looking like they understand why they’re here and having fun in the process.”
____________________

The final Houston version of Astroline will take place Wednesday at Buffalo Wild Wings on Gray St. in Midtown, beginning at 7 p.m. CT. Our old buddy Phil Garner will join Milo Hamilton for the full hour and they welcome your calls (713-212-5874). The show is open to the public and will air on the club’s flagship station, 740 KTRH. The show will also be streamed live on astros.com and will be available in the archives on the site soon after the broadcast.

There is a twist to this Wednesday’s show: Astroline and Buffalo Wild Wings will be hosting a silent auction benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, a fundraiser geared toward raising awareness and enlisting the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members. Participants can purchase a $10 ticket, which entitles them to six traditional or eight boneless wings and a beverage. In addition, these guests will receive a ticket to participate in a raffle of one autographed item. The silent auction, which will contain many Astros autographed items, will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. CT.
_____________

On to the photos…

Michael Bourn grunted (in admiration) on more than one occasion while facing Abad.

0221_bourn_bp.jpg

Infielders stand by while pitchers practice faking pickoff throws to second

0221_cj_manz_barmes.jpg
This conditioning exercise involves players bending their knees and flapping their arms. In a group, it looks like they’re trying to fly away.

0221_fly_away.jpg

J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez during morning pickoff drills.

0221_happ.jpg

Mills chats with players at the end of the workout, when players are stretching following conditioning drills.

0221_mills.jpg

Happy to be here: Carlos Lee…

0221_carlos.jpg

…and Hunter Pence

0221_pence_smile.jpg

Astros are on Facebook
Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter
Check out Astros witticisms at AstrosOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

I don’t know how good this team will be, and that’s why I like it.

0219_castro_quin.jpg

I am asked almost daily for my prediction for the 2011 Astros. I am asked to guess how many games they’ll win and if they’ll contend, if they have enough starting pitching and hitting and a strong enough bullpen to stay afloat in the NL Central division.

My answer comes off as wishy washy, but it’s the honest truth — I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. And that’s why this team is going to be fun to watch.

When I look at this team, I see a very good starting rotation, and when you have good pitching, you have a chance. When I look at the lineup, I see a lot of players without long-term track records, and that’s why it is nearly impossible to handicap how this season is going to shake out.

Chris Johnson had a terrific rookie season. Jason Castro (pictured above, with Humberto Quintero) and Brett Wallace struggled offensively as they worked to acclimate themselves to the big leagues in a very short amount of time. The middle of the infield will have more pop than last year’s with the addition of Clint Barmes and Bill Hall, but we don’t know how that will translate over the course of six months.

I see interesting arms in the bullpen in Wilton Lopez and Mark Melancon and Fernando Abad, but again, so many of the Astros’ up-and-comers have little to no track record, and therefore, it is impossible to project how they’ll perform over the long haul.

So how good will these Astros be in 2011? I just don’t know. And to me, that makes them a very intriguing story. In 2009, the Astros had the oldest team in two categories: age, and service time. Those are the two distinctions no team wants. Over the course of two years, the Astros have gotten younger and better defensively, and while players who are just starting out are going to have their share of inevitable struggles, I sense it’ll be fun to watch them develop,
too.
_____________________

On the other hand, there are plenty of Astros who have been around a while. A long, long while — in many instances, more than three decades. Fortunately, they’re all members of the support staff and not the 40-man roster.

Twelve have been to at least 30 Spring Trainings, led by the grand daddy of them all, Matt Galante, who is participating in his 45th camp. The rest of the list: Special Assistant to the GM Jose Cruz (44), bullpen coach Jamie Quirk (39), bullpen assistant Strech Suba (34), traveling secretary Barry Waters (34), clubhouse manager emeritus Dennis Liborio (34), bench coach Al Pedrique (34), Oklahoma City pitching coach Burt Hooton (34), assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones (34), manager Brad Mills (33), strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman (33), visiting clubhouse manager Steve Perry (32).

____________________

On to the links…

MLB.com

Carlos Lee would like to put last year behind him and start anew

In this McTaggart notebook, we learn that Drayton McLane was surprised the club lost its arbitration case with Pence and that Alberto Arias is concerned about his right shoulder.

McTaggart also has some dandy photos from the first full-squad workout on Sunday in his blog.

Chronicle

Get to know your new hitting coach in this Justice column.

Hunter Pence labeled as the club’s hardest working player, possibly ever. Here’s why.

Could the Astros and Nationals be moving in together in a few years? Justice has the scoop.

Astros are on Facebook
Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter
Check out Astros witticisms at AstrosOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers