Results tagged ‘ Astros ’
In today’s Internet age, the only thing you need in order to express yourself freely and without filter is a computer and a pulse.
It’s likely that no other industry matches sports when it comes to the number of people who have an opinion and who accept the free invitations to express those views to the world. That can cause some confusion as to what’s fact and fiction, or who’s legit and who’s bogus.
In baseball, one publication that has maintained its reputation as the No. 1 source for information regarding baseball, especially from a scouting and organizational standpoint, is Baseball America. While plenty of horn-tooters out there profess to have a grand knowledge of the inner workings of an organization, Baseball America garners the most respect, especially when it comes to talent rankings.
The last few years have been tough for Astros fans, considering BA has ranked the Astros at the bottom, or very near it, for several years. After the slew of trades they’ve made in the last couple of years — especially the deals involving Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn last year — there was hope the Astros would move up.
That is, indeed, the case. In the recent organizational talent rankings released by BA this week, the Astros are now ranked 18th, having moved up eight spots from No. 26 a year ago. Prior to that, the Astros’ spot at the bottom barely budged at all:
Here’s the Astros blurb from Baseball America that followed its No. 18 ranking:
IMPACT TALENT: The Astros climb out of the bottom third of our rankings for the first time since 2002. 1B Jonathan Singleton is the best hitter, RHP Jarred Cosart the highest-upside pitcher and OF George Springer the most gifted athlete to come through the system in a while.
DEPTH: Houston has drafted worse than any club over the last decade, so most of its best prospects arrived in trades. Singleton, Cosart and OF Domingo Santana came from the Phillies for Hunter Pence; SS Jonathan Villar from Philadelphia for Roy Oswalt; and RHP Paul Clemens and LHP Brett Oberholtzer from the Braves for Michael Bourn.
2012 ROOKIES: OF J.B. Shuck could emerge as the Astros’ center fielder out of spring training. RHPs Juan Abreu and Rhiner Cruz and SS/2B Marwin Gonzalez—the latter two were major league Rule 5 draft picks in December—also could make the Opening Day roster.
The full rankings:
1. Texas Rangers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Toronto Blue Jays
6. Seattle Mariners
7. Oakland Athletics
8. Tampa Bay Rays
9. Boston Red Sox
10. St. Louis Cardinals
11. Pittsburgh Pirates
12. Washington Nationals
13. New York Yankees
14. Chicago Cubs
15. Atlanta Braves
16. Cincinnati Reds
17. Colorado Rockies
18. Houston Astros
19. Los Angeles Angels
20. Minnesota Twins
21. Baltimore Orioles
22. San Francisco Giants
23. Detroit Tigers
24. Los Angeles Dodgers
25. New York Mets
26. Milwaukee Brewers
27. Philadelphia Phillies
28. Miami Marlins
29. Cleveland Indians
30. Chicago White Sox
Additionally, Singleton was dubbed the second-best first base prospect of all 30 teams, behind San Diego’s Yonder Alonso. BA’s take: “Scouts are high on Singleton’s hitting mechanics, and it’s only a matter of time before his raw power starts showing up more in game situations.”
Delino DeShields was ranked the 10th-best second base prospect (“The 2010 first-rounder’s youth was apparent during full-season debut a year ago, as the 18-year-old batted .220 and struck out once per game. On the plus side, DeShields showed plus speed and gap power while learning to play the keystone”), and Jonathan Villar the eighth-base shortstop prospect (“Can field the position with the best of them, but will he hit enough?”)
Insider’s peek: photos, billboards are front and center as Astros reveal their Root! Root! Root! campaign.
Emphasizing the Astros’ passion for baseball and the importance of supporting the home team, the Astros rolled out their Root! Root! Root! 2012 marketing campaign on Monday.
Here is an example of the billboards you will see around Houston this season…
…and the wallscapes that will adorn Minute Maid Park:
Root! Root! Root! is based on the classic song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” played in every Major League ballpark during the seventh-inning stretch. Additionally, the Astros have launched a Spanish campaign to accompany the English version, entitled, “¡DALE! ¡DALE! ¡DALE!”
The campaign emphasizes the enthusiasm and passion for baseball shared by the Astros new ownership group led by Jim Crane and also encourages fans and the city to support the home team. The campaign will also reflect the excitement surrounding the 50th anniversary of the ball club and what it means to the fans, the city of Houston and throughout Major League Baseball.
In the upcoming weeks, the Astros will promote the ROOT! ROOT! ROOT! campaign in a variety of ways, including social media, in print, through email campaigns and on billboards, radio, t-shirts, wallscapes, pole banners and columns.
While we’ll refer to the campaign with exclamation points when we’re writing about it (Root! Root! Root!), the billboards and printed material will use periods (Root. Root. Root.). I really like the look of the billboards using the periods — it’s subtle yet bold, and has a definitive meaning that conveys two messages important to the Astros: they have a young team with likable players, and their ballpark, still one of the premier stadiums in baseball, is a great place to take in a game.
To enhance that message, the Astros introduced several fan-friendly gameday initiatives a while back, designed to engender good will with the fan base. These include allowances to bring food and water into the ballpark, and cheaper beer and ticket prices.
I’ve heard from a lot of you on the campaign already. What about the rest of you? Like? Dislike? Somewhere in between?
The Astros’ Spring Training roster has been trimmed by 14 players in the last week, from 63 to 49. General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills still have some whittling down to do, considering that between now and Opening Day a little more than three weeks from now, 24 more players are going to have to be removed from Major League roster consideration.
It’s likely that the team will break the Florida version of Spring Training camp with around 30 players. They’ll travel to Corpus Christi for an exhibition game and will have two more to play at home — against the White Sox — before the slate is wiped clean and the real games begin April 6. They’ll need some extra bodies to get them through those final three exhibitions, which justifies bringing along some extra helping hands before finalizing the 25-man Opening Day roster.
We casually refer to roster trimming as “cuts,” but that’s probably not the most accurate term to use. Most of the players who have been sent to Minor League camp so far are considered to be a part of the Astros’ future. Realistically and somewhat ironically, it wouldn’t be fair to their development to keep them in big league camp.
Starting pitchers are pitching more innings by now, and there are only so many games and innings to be dispersed among a group of 63. The Minor League players also have a season to get ready for, and they can’t do that if they’re sitting on the bench, waiting for an inning here and an inning there. Especially the starting pitchers — they need to get stretched out as well.
So that’s why Paul Clemens — he of the 0.00 ERA over five innings in two spring games — was sent to Minor League camp this week, along with several others, like Jonathan Singleton, Delino DeShields, Jonathan Villar and George Springer. Many big pieces of the puzzle will now prepare for their seasons in Minor League camp, where playing time and innings are plentiful.
But don’t forget these guys. You’ll see them again.
Even though the Major League clubhouse has cleared out a bit, innings are still an issue as the front office and coaching staff sort out who will comprise the starting rotation. There are still more than five viable candidates, which is why some have to pitch in Minor League games or simulated sessions in order to stay on schedule. Jordan Lyles, a fifth starter candidate, started the club’s Triple-A game against the Nationals’ Triple-A team at the same time the Astros were hosting the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Lyles’ line: five innings, two hits, no runs, one walk and seven strikeouts.
Programming note: Due to scheduling conflicts, Friday’s game will be broadcast on KTRH on tape delay. It will air at 8 p.m. CT that night.
By this time of the spring, I’ve watched morning workouts on the backfields of the Osceola County Stadium complex more than two dozen times, and quite frankly, the routine can become a tad mundane after a while.
Don’t get me wrong, no one day in baseball is like the next, but after 17 sessions of pitchers’ fielding practice and 48 rounds of batting practice, well, you’ll understand that from time to time, the eyelids get a little droopy.
But it’s nothing that a little flip-cam action can’t remedy. You never know what you’re going to capture if you just stand there and let the sights and sounds of Spring Training take over.
In today’s video corner, we joke around a little bit with Wandy Rodriguez and note some of Carlos Lee’s keen observations as he watches his teammates hit from behind the cage:
TV/Radio bonanza: Brett, Dave, Brownie, J.D., Milo and a bunch of programming notes. The band’s back together.
Today, we start with the transcript from Tuesday’s chat session with our intrepid skipper, Brad Mills…
Q: How will such new young talented players adjust together in such short time? in other words, how important is finding a good rhythm?
Brad Mills: Early on, we addressed the need for a cohesive bond and a lot of times with these young players, they do just that. This particular group has bought into that way of thinking and they’ve done a very good job of coming together so far. We think they definitely will continue.
Q: What was the determining factor in naming Myers the closer? Experience? Stats? Desire?
Mills: All of the above, really. We had to make sure that he was as excited about it as we were. When he said he was excited, that was probably the most determining factor. There’s been so many successful closers that have been starters in the past that have turned into really good closers. It helps that he has already been a closer and did well with it.
Q: How fired up is Bud Norris this year? What have been your thoughts on his pitching?
Mills: He’s throwing the ball really well. He has concentrated on a lot of his secondary pitches so far and is developing them quicker than maybe even expected.
Q: Will we see any major rotations or changes in the outfield or infield coming soon?
Mills: There’s going to be changes in the rotation, with Myers leaving and then needing a fifth starter. The infield, we’re going to have a few changes, but nothing drastic yet. The competition we’ve had this spring has really opened our eyes to a lot of good things that have happened to our organization over the past year.
Q: what did you see (on Tuesday) that you liked?
Mills: Livan (Hernandez) stood out. He threw the ball absolutely outstanding. I’m knocking on wood that our defense continues to be very solid. And anytime you hit a walkoff home run, like Brian Bixler did, that’s pretty significant.
Q: Are coaches decisions or a managers decision based on stats solely? Do you ever use your gut?
Mills: I always use my gut, but ignoring stats is ignorant. You have to use everything.
Q: What is the daily routine of a ball player at Spring Training?
Mills: The days are long once we start playing games. Players are usually at the ballpark by 7 in the morning. They have a routine of hitters hitting in the cage, they have their time slots between 7 and 9. Others have early work on the field starting at 8:30. The coaches meeting is at 8 and then we go through a full workout up until lunch. We take lunch and then play a game. That is a full day.
Q: What is the team spirit like after a 6-4 start (after Tuesday’s win)?
Mills: It’s very good right now after the last two wins. Last night’s win and today were both outstanding games, very close games that we won at the end. Anytime we have those types of games it brings a little team bonding. The one thing about this group is they’ve handled themselves extremely well all spring. The effort in doing the things we can control has been very good. That’s been one of the things we’ve emphasized the most.
Q: Are you finding younger picthers recover quicker or about the same?
Mills: Mostly, the same. The one thing veteran pitchers know is how to go about their workload so they are able to recover in a timely manner.
Q: What will these players need to accomplish to make it to the playoffs?
Mills: We have to continue to improve. They’ve shown good progression so far in a short time and we’ll have to continue to do that. There’s a lot of talent here and given those capabilities, that is our objective.
* Popular television broadcasters Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies, who not long ago were enshrined into the fictitious MLB bobblehead Hall of Fame, are en route to Florida and will be with the Astros for a full week. They will be in town, of course, to broadcast the Astros’ game on FS Houston on March 20, but they are also going to be given a little time on the radio as well. From what I understand, J.D. will join Dave Raymond in the booth on Saturday when the team plays the Yankees in Tampa, and Brownie will pair with Brett Dolan on Friday for the Astros’ visit to Orlando to play the Braves.
(FYI, bobblehead HOF worthiness is based solely on how much the bobblehead actually resembles the actual person. On a sliding scale, with a score of one being the lowest (a la Jeff Bagwell, class of 2003) and 10 being the highest (Richard Hidalgo, ’01), the Brownie and J.D. bobble given out last June has to be a solid 9.5.)
Anyhoo, it’ll be great to have the old gang together again, especially considering my Astros OneLiners twitter account has been a little barren, to say the least, without J.D.’s, well, J.D.-isms.
* I’m also hearing Craig Biggio is on his way to Kissimmee on Thursday for his annual Spring Training visit. Word is he will be in town through Sunday.
* Former broadcaster/pitcher/manager and current all-around great guy Larry Dierker flew to Florida with owner Jim Crane and a few friends and Astros executives on Tuesday and joined the contingent in Jupiter. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years since the last time Dierker was a regular part of Spring Training, as the Astros’ manager. While I’m sure there’s plenty about being on the field that Dierker misses, Spring Training isn’t high on that list.
As a manager, the early mornings, the long bus trips and the seemingly never-ending slate of Spring Training games wore on him. He quite liked this time of the year when he was an active player, however. As a starting pitcher, he only had to participate in Grapefruit League games every four or five days, and when he was in the game long enough to be considered a veteran, he really had it easy, because he pretty much dictated which road trips he would be on.
“I’d tell the pitching coach where I wanted to go, and I really only had to take one long trip all spring,” Dierker laughed.
*To add catching depth to the system, the Astros signed Landon Powell, who not long ago was released by the Oakland A’s. Powell signed a Minor League deal and will be in big league camp. While it’s unlikely he’d make the team — a healthy Jason Castro and solid backup Chris Snyder appear to be the favorites to break camp with the club — Powell gives the team a possible plan B. Humberto Quintero is still in the mix as well, obviously, but his back issues leave some uncertainty there. Powell simply gives the Astros more options should they need to dip into the system for catching help.
* The Astros will host the Blue Jays on Thursday at Osceola County Stadium at 1:05 p.m. ET, noon CT. Left-hander Zach Duke will start for the Astros, who will face Toronto righty Dustin McGowan. The game will be broadcast on KBME 790 am.
* David Carpenter will be Milo Hamilton’s guest on Astroline tonight (Wednesday) at 8 p.m. ET, 7 CT. The show will air live from the ESPN Club at the Disney Boardwalk and will air on 740 KTRH and Astros.com.
Brett Myers’ move to the bullpen opened up a lot of innings, some 200 or more, that need to be accounted for by someone else this season. Livan Hernandez will take care some of that, of course, but opportunity is wide open for another pitcher — presumably, one of the Astros up-and-comers — to grab one of the spots in a rotation that has at least one opening.
Assuming Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez, Hernandez and J.A. Happ take up the first four spots, one job remains. Jordan Lyles, who made 15 starts for the Astros in 2011, would have to be considered a front-runner to win the job. But keep an eye on a few others, including Kyle Weiland, who is quietly putting together an impressive Spring Training.
Weiland, who was traded to the Astros from the Red Sox during the offseason, threw four no-hit innings against the Yankees Monday night in Tampa. Add that to the four scoreless innings he combined for in his first two spring appearances, and that equals a nearly perfect spring so far: eight innings, three hits, no runs, two walks, four strikeouts.
Spring Training games should, and will, be viewed with the understanding that while it’s largely the only way by which we can judge players at this point, it’s not the sole indicator of how that might translate to the regular season. That said, Spring Training is also designed to give players a chance to force their way onto a team. Weiland, who is going to continue to be groomed as a starting pitcher as he develops through the Astros’ system, wasn’t labeled as a sure-fire contender to win a big league job when camp began. But he wasn’t definitively ticketed for Triple-A, either.
Rather, Weiland was considered one of those “interesting” types to keep an eye on. If three weeks ago I had to bet large amounts of my salary on where Weiland would end up after Spring Training, I would have said Oklahoma City. Now, I’m not so sure.
If the Astros are looking for someone to pull away from the pack, they may have to look no further than the pitcher who handled the Yankees with a tidy 49 pitches Monday night in Tampa.
Weiland, on his outing:
* To make up for Sunday’s rainout, Wandy threw four simulated innings in the batting cage as soon as the game was called. The next morning, Norris and Aneury Rodriguez also threw four-inning simulated games. Norris was pitching on his normal four days of rest. The simulated games are in an effort to give “starts” to all potential starting pitchers this spring, and obviously, they have more than five who need innings.
* Brad Mills said he is trying to schedule a “B” game to make up for the innings lost by the rainout Sunday. While Spring Training games look casual and not terribly intense, there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes during the exhibition season. The schedules are mapped out by the coaching staff days in advance, and everyone — especially pitchers — have a regimen they need to stick to. Rainouts are a bummer for the fans, but they create even more headaches for a manager and staff trying to make sure 60-some players are all getting their work in. It looks easy from the outside. It’s not.
* Owner Jim Crane flew to Tampa with several board members to watch the Astros play the Yankees. It was Crane’s first Spring Training game, but presumably, it won’t be his last. He looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself:
Other pregame sights from George M. Steinbrenner Field:
The 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball in Houston will be celebrated this year, and to supplement the good times, most of the promotions, events and giveaways will center around this Golden milestone.
Fridays at Minute Maid Park this year are going to be a very big deal. Tabbed “Flashback Fridays,” these nights will go heavy on nostalgia, from the uniforms the players wear during the game to iconic players from the past who will be on hand to celebrate the club’s history.
The Astros will highlight a different uniform each month, with the team wearing that jersey for each Friday night game. The featured jerseys include:
1960′s Colt .45s (April 10 – commemorating the first game in franchise history and April 20)
1960′s Shooting Star (May 4 and May 18)
1970′s Rainbow (June 1 and June 22)
1980′s Shoulder Rainbow (July 6 and July 27)
1990′s Blue and Gold Star (Aug. 10, Aug. 17 and Aug. 31)
“Flashback Fridays” also feature special ballpark entertainment and fireworks shows themed to each particular decade. In addition, as part of the celebration, Colt .45s and Astros alumni from the past 50 seasons will be invited back to toss out ceremonial first pitches prior to those Friday games.
This year’s bobblehead set will feature Astros “Greatest Moments” from 50 years of baseball in Houston.
The first bobble features Nolan Ryan (May 19) celebrating his record fifth no-hitter in 1981. Craig Biggio (June 22) portrays his unforgettable 3,000th hit in 2007, followed by Cy Young Award winning pitcher Mike Scott (July 7) clinching the National League West Division with a no-hitter in 1986.
Rounding out this year’s “Greatest Moments” bobblehead lineup is a pair of home run heroes. In what currently stands as the longest playoff game in Major League history, 2005 National League Division Series hero Chris Burke (July 28) joins the set for his 18th inning walk-off homer in a year that saw the Astros in their first World Series.
Jeff Kent (Sept. 1) joins in similar fashion for his walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 2004 National League Championship Series.
Among the remaining highlights for 2012:
All-Time 25-Man Roster Vote
A panel of 10 experts has voted on the Astros All-Time 25-Man Roster, and throughout the season, Astros fans will have a chance to let their voices be heard as they will cast the 11th vote. Each month throughout the season, a different position will be featured on astros.com and fans can cast their vote on their all-time favorite players.
Oldies but Goodies
“Retro” is in the air as the 50th Anniversary Celebration weaves its way through multiple giveaways this season. Currently scheduled items include a Colt .45s cap (April 10), Colt .45s replica jersey (April 20), 1970’s rainbow style t-shirt (June 1), retro gym bag (June 2), retro lunch bag (June 3), 1960′s blue Astros cap (June 20), 1990′s blue and gold replica jersey (Aug. 10), and a rainbow umbrella (Aug. 12).
Pink in the Park
Pink in the Park week is back in 2012. The week (May 4-9), dedicated to driving awareness for breast cancer research, will kick off with the fourth annual Pink in the Park Brunch and Bazaar, benefiting the Methodist Cancer Center (May 4). The rest of the week will feature pink giveaway items including a Belted Tote Bag (May 4), a Pink Yoga Mat (May 6), and Pink Pashmina Scarf (May 7).
The 2012 calendar features many events including fan favorites as well as events specifically geared towards the anniversary celebration. Returning in 2012 is Opening Day Street Fest (April 6), Friday Night Fireworks, Dog Day (May 6 and Sept. 16), Bayou Bash (May 19), Bike to the Ballpark (June 3), Faith and Family Night Concerts (June 23 featuring Third Day and July 28 featuring Mercy Me), and Oktoberfest (Sept. 15).
The Astros are bringing back local members of the 1962 Colt .45s roster for a pregame ceremony and reunion on Tuesday, April 10, 50 years to the day from the first game ever played in franchise history. In addition, the season-long celebration culminates with Legends Weekend (Sept. 21-23) in which all Colt .45s and Astros alumni will be invited to Minute Maid Park to take part in anniversary activities. As a part of the weekend, all available members of the Astros All-Time 25-Man roster will be recognized in a special pregame ceremony.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.astros.com, at the Minute Maid Park box office on Texas Avenue or by phone toll free at 1-877-9ASTROS (1-877-927-8767). Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster retail centers in all Fiesta and select Macy’s, H-E-B, F.Y.E., Wherehouse Music and Ritmo Latino stores during regular store hours.
2012 Astros Promotions and Events:
Schedule Magnet (United) 20,000 fans; Opening Day Street Fest; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
50th Anniversary Patch (Insperity) 10,000 fans
50th Anniversary Poster (Champion Energy Services) 10,000 fans
Colt .45s Cap (Conn’s) 10,000 fans; $1 Hot Dog Night (Classic Foods)
Colt .45s Replica Jersey (Champion Energy Services) 10,000 fans; Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation); Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System)
Play Green® Cap (Waste Management) 10,000 fans
Grocery Tote Bag (The Methodist Hospital System) 10,000 fans
Belted Pink Bag (Methodist Cancer Center) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Los Astros Cap (Wells Fargo) 10,000 fans; Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Pink Yoga Mat (Methodist Cancer Center) 10,000 fans; Dog Day at Minute Maid Park
Pink Pashmina Scarf (Methodist Cancer Center) 10,000 fans
Drawstring Bags (MLB Network) 10,000 fans
Lone Star Series T-Shirt (Champion Energy Services) 10,000 fans; University of Texas Night; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Nolan Ryan Bobblehead Fifth No-Hitter (Coca-Cola) 10,000 fans; Bayou Bash; Texas A&M Night
1970′s Rainbow T-Shirt (The Methodist Hospital System) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Retro Gym Bag (Kroger) 10,000 fans
Retro Lunch Bag (Champion Energy Services) 10,000 fans; Bike to the Ballpark
1960′s Retro Cap (Bastion Technologies) 10,000 fans
Craig Biggio Bobblehead 3,000th Hit (Coca-Cola) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Faith and Family Night
Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Mike Scott Bobblehead 1986 No-Hitter (Grand Slam for Youth Baseball) 10,000 fans
Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Chris Burke Bobblehead 18th Inning Walk-Off Home Run (Dahill) 10,000 fans; Faith and Family Night
1990′s Blue and Gold Jersey (Coca-Cola) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Umbrella (HEB) 10,000 Fans
Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Jeff Bagwell Bobblehead 400th Home Run (Champion Energy Services) 10,000 fans
Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Jeff Kent Bobblehead NLCS Game 5 Walk-Off Home Run (The Methodist Hospital System) 10,000 fans
Fleece Blanket (The Methodist Hospital System) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
Los Astros T-Shirt (Goya) 10,000 fans; Oktoberfest
Dog Day at Minute Maid Park
50th Anniversary Legends Weekend; 50th Anniversary Canvas Art (The Methodist Hospital System) 10,000 fans; Flashback Fridays (The Methodist Hospital System); Friday Night Fireworks (Marathon Oil Corporation)
50th Anniversary Legends Weekend
50th Anniversary Legends Weekend
Team Poster (Houston Chronicle) All Fans
Third base coach Dave Clark is as nice and pleasant of a fellow that you’ll meet, which makes it even more entertaining to watch him when he’s in full-blown coaching mode during Spring Training.
Clark, who in his former life was first a Golden Gloves boxer and then a big league outfielder, has a little drill sergeant in him as he oversees certain areas of morning workouts. Whether it’s pitchers practicing sliding or position players running the bases, there’s never any confusion when “Clarkie” relays what he wants to see during this or that particular exercise.
Baserunning drills might not seem terribly exciting this time of year, but they are when you considering the different scenarios they practice: base hits that are bobbled by the opposing outfielders, doubles to the gaps, triples, scoring on a sacrifice fly and on.
Clark barks out the scenario, and the players fall in line on the basepaths, adhering to the orders. At the end of one particular session that I watched (and recorded), Clark had some fun at the end, telling the players to practice the “walkoff homer” trot:
Notes from camp:
Just as soon as Brad Mills announced who will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener on Saturday, he announced a scratch. Carlos Lee will not play, due to a mild right hamstring strain that he’s been fighting for a few days. Instead, Brett Wallace will start at first base.
Lee went through quite a few sprinting drills with head athletic trainer Nate Lucero toward the end of Friday’s workout, so I would venture to guess the hammy strain indeed is not terribly serious. Teams will err on the side of caution this time of year.
The other starters for Saturday’s game are as follows (order to be announced later): Livan Hernandez P; Jason Castro C; Jose Altuve 2b; Chris Johnson, 3b; Jed Lowrie SS; J.B. Shuck LF; Jason Bourgeois CF; Travis Buck RF; Jack Cust, DH.
(Most National League teams will utilize the DH until the middle of the month. Pitchers usually don’t start hitting in games until the final 10 days to two weeks of exhibition games.)
In addition to the scoreboard staffers gathering all of their material for the season during an abbreviated Spring Training jaunt, other members of the front office are also here to gather loot of a different kind.
Astros Vice President of Foundation Development Marian Harper and Director of Community Affairs Shawn Bertani are in town this week to oversee the massive autograph signing session that is currently taking place in the meeting room on the second floor of the Spring Training facility.
Players are asked to sign a host of items — balls, bats, jerseys, etc. — that will be given away over the course of the season, mostly at auctions, sponsor events and charity functions. In total, approximately 4,500 items will be signed over the course of three days:
Other notables before you head out for the weekend…
* Happy birthday to Bud Norris, who turns 27 today.
I know I’m a bit biased, but I’d rank them higher than that. I willingly, however, leave the No. 1 spot for Vin Scully, universally known as a treasure, and unmatched by any other.
FanGraphs cites the comments for Brownie and J.D. almost always “uniformly gushing,” and I can attest to that, as one of the more vocal gushers.
* The Astros begin their Grapefruit League schedule tomorrow with a 1:05 p.m. CT game against the neighboring Washington Nationals. Tickets for all 15 Astros spring home games are currently available, but the Astros-Yankees game scheduled for March 31 is now at standing room only.
* Livan Hernandez will start Saturday, with J.A. Happ getting the start on Sunday at Washington. Jordan Lyles will start on Monday vs. Atlanta at home.
* The Houston College Classic will get underway at Minute Maid Park today. All nine games will be televised nationally by the Longhorn Network and ESPN3. The Longhorn Network will air each of the University of Texas’ games, while ESPN3 will pick up the remaining six games.
The six-team tournament enters its 12th year at Minute Maid Park and will feature hometown schools Rice University and the University of Houston, who will be making their annual entry into the tournament. This year’s field also includes Texas, Texas Tech, Arkansas and Tennessee. Three of the teams in the tournament are ranked nationally among the top 25 in Baseball America’s poll, including No. 4 Arkansas, No. 5 Rice and No. 21 Texas.
I’m really not sure why a portion of the Yankees’ Photo Day took place in a bathroom, as evidenced by an Alex Rodriguez picture that circulated around the Internet and Twitterverse on Monday. I checked the Internet for answers as to why a photographer from a reputable company set up camp with A-Rod in such an odd place, but there didn’t seem to be a logical explanation. The only conclusion I can draw is the photo was leaked, and we’re the unfortunate beneficiaries of yellow journalism.
Anyhoo, I can assure you the Astros’ Photo Day setup was considerably less cramped, had a much lower ick factor, and each year, they try to make it as painless for the players as possible.
Photo Day is a somewhat awkward experience, but one that is an essential part of big league baseball. It’s the one day all year that everyone who needs headshots or posed shots has access to the players, all at once. Newspapers, online news organizations, baseball card companies and the club’s own scoreboard staff use Photo Day to stockpile pictures of players that they will inevitably need over the course of a season.
Photo Day starts insanely early. The first batch of Astros players began the process at 7 a.m., which means the photographers had to be here around 5:30 or so to set up. Groups went through the stations in 15-minute increments, with the youngest, most inexperienced players going first, and the veteran guys (Carlos Lee was last) getting the more desirable time slots.
Players go from station to station with a printout of their name and their position. They hold up the sign for the first photo that is snapped, so that they’re easily identifiable when the hundreds of photos from all 30 teams need to be organized and placed into a database.
(Years ago, Reggie Abercrombie and Hanley Ramirez thought it would be funny to switch signs. For a full year, their head shots on scoreboards all through the league and in media guides were not of themselves, but of each other.)
Here is some behind-the-scenes footage of Photo Day, where players are trying to act naturally for the cameras while ignoring the few of us who snicker from the sidelines. Enos Cabell had a laugh as he remembered Photo Days from years past, when the topic of the exercise centered around the size of Bruce Bochy’s head.
In the early stages of Spring Training every year, you’ll hear the same lines of conversation between players, staff and those who cover the team: how was your offseason? Where are you staying down here? Did you do anything fun over the winter?
Ask Jed Lowrie that last question, and you’re not going to get the typical, “Yea, hung out with the family, went to Cabo over Christmas” response. The new Astros shortstop got married last November and took a honeymoon that some of us could only dream of, and others of us wouldn’t touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole (and by “others,” I mean, me).
Lowrie and his wife, Milessa Muchmore-Lowrie, honeymooned in Tanzania, where they went on a two-week African safari. Lowrie, who took over 7,000 photos, called it the experience of a lifetime.
Brian McTaggart has the complete rundown in a fantastic write up on Astros.com, complete with a slate of breathtaking photos of wild animals living in their natural habitat. Speaking as a less adventurous person, if someone handed me an air horn and said, “Blow this if there’s a lion in your tent,” I’d be on the first flight back to whatever city prefers to keep its animals in zoos (preferably, Houston).
Lowrie is not your garden-variety ballplayer. He’s a graduate of Stanford University and an avid photographer, and his wife a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department who will soon be relocated to Mexico.
When you have a spare moment, check out the story. The photos are amazing.
For several years, we’ve been running Spring Training video reports on Astros.com, and we’ll continue to produce the same twice-a-week shows this spring. Our first one is posted now, and it features right-hander Jordan Lyles.
The plan is to run a player feature mid-week every week and one with general manager Jeff Luhnow every Monday.
Today’s slate of photos captures players not only working out, but seemingly enjoying the process (remember, friends, this is baseball — it’s supposed to be fun). Also in the mix are a couple of photos that harken back to our past, 50th anniversary-style.