Seeing that Rice University was set to honor Philip Humber on Thursday with a commemorative plaque for the perfect game he threw last year as a member of the White Sox, Astros manager Bo Porter decided to honor the right-hander as well.
The Astros toasted Humber in the clubhouse prior to Thursday’s workout at Osceola County Stadium with glasses of sparkling cider. Porter even arranged for Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was behind the plate when Humber threw the perfect game April 21 against the Mariners, to be on the phone from Arizona to lead the toast.
“Obviously, it’s quite an honor and it’s special when you’re able to accomplish pinnacles in this game,” Porter said. “We’re grateful to have Philip Humber in our organization and get him over from the White Sox, but we wanted to acknowledge him today.”
Humber threw the 21st player in Major League history to throw a perfect game last year. There were two more perfect games thrown during the season by San Francisco’s Matt Cain, who sent 27 Astros down in order June 13, and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Dennis Martinez, who threw the 13th perfect game in history 1991 for Montreal, is the Astros’ bullpen coach.
“We’re lucky enough to have two people in our clubhouse in Dennis Martinez and Philip Humber that have accomplished that feat,” Porter said.
Porter was grateful for Pierzynski to accommodate the ceremony by getting on the phone at 7 a.m. MT.
“I talked to him this morning and the timing worked perfect and he was able to get on the phone,” Porter said. “He led the toast and we toasted Philip and it was fun for the group.”
Other things we learned Thursday morning:
- You have noticed on the photos the Astros don’t have their names on their backs this spring. That’s by design. Manager Bo Porter wants them to earn their names, which will be placed on the jerseys on Opening Day. More on that later.
- In an effort to try to establish some camaraderie in the clubhouse, Porter is going to start having food delivered to the clubhouse following each workout. He hopes that will encourage players to sit around and talk and get to know each other more.
- Position players continue to trickle into Kissimmee. Former first-round Draft picks George Springer and Delino DeShields Jr. arrived to camp on Thursday. This will be their second Major League camp, and the two friends are roommates again this year. Catcher Carlos Perez, who was held up on visa issues, could arrive Thursday, too.
- The Astros have added Minor League catcher Ryan McCurdy to their spring roster as another body to catch bullpens. He will wear No. 98.
Here are a couple of quick morning photos from Kissimmee:
The biggest news of the day concerning the Astros actually happened nearly 1,000 miles away in Houston, where the club announced its 2013 radio and television broadcast team. There wasn’t much mystery to the names, but with the start of games only 10 days, the incoming broadcasters can talk publicly about their new roles. Stay tuned.
Today’s Astros notebook has tons of information, including injury update on catcher Max Stassi, what Bo Porter has to stay about leadership and a look who might hit leadoff for the Astros. We also take a closer look at manager Bo Porter and what he’s done in the first few days of camp to transform the mood of the club.
At Osceola County Stadium, another three groups of pitchers got on the mound for the first time.
Group 1B: Erik Bedard, Philip Humber, Jordan Lyles, Jose Cisnero, Rudy Owens.
Group 2B: Dallas Keuchel, Jose Veras, Josh Fields, Ross Seaton, Rhiner Cruz.
Group 3B: Paul Clemens, Chia-Jen Lo, Hector Ambriz, C.J. Fick, Sergio Escalona.
It was a big step for Escalona, who missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.
“That is one step right now to just keep going to the goal,” he said. “I say ‘Thank God.’ That’s everything I have to say. I was patient, I was working for this day and, like I said, it’s one step at a time. I can’t get overexcited and just try to do everything to my best. I’m excited and really happy for today and just need to prepare for the second one.”
Here is the day in pictures:
Every day for Astros manager Bo Porter is simply about laying a foundation. Every day will be another brick in the team’s master plan of building a championship contender, he said, and the Astros took another step towards that process Tuesday when pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time.
“It was a good brick,” Porter said of the first workout.
The groups of pitchers that put in their first in the bullpen were:
Group 1A: Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris, John Ely, Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock.
Group 2A: Wesley Wright, Edgar Gonzalez, Alex White, Sam Demel and Jose Valdez.
Group 3A: Xavier Cedeno, Josh Zeid, Kevin Chapman, Brett Oberholtzer.
Those who didn’t throw Tuesday will get on the mound Wednesday. When the pitchers weren’t throwing, they were rotated through three fundamental stations, covering pick-offs, fielding bunts and holding runners. The end of the day brought conditioning tests.
“When I heard running test, the first I heard as a pitching coach is, ‘I don’t want to lose anybody, I don’t want a groin tear or have a misshape with plantar fascistic,’” pitching coach Doug Brocail said. “They slowed some of our guys down. It was no big deal.”
Porter didn’t want the players to do too much on the first day.
“We don’t want them to come out here and blow out the first day,” he said. “It was good to see the guys get on the mound. I like the fact the majority of guys that stepped up there today, they kept the ball down and worked the outer half of the plate. It was good.”
The first day of workouts went smooth enough for Porter that the only thing he planned to change Tuesday was saving his voice. Porter was forced to yell across the fields several times to get someone’s attention, and by the end of the day the clubhouse staff had purchased air horns.
“I think the schedule went well,” he said. “The guys got a lot of work in.”
The pitchers will throw twice in the bullpen before throwing twice to live hitters once position players are here. They will take a three-day break before starting to work in games.
“Everybody looked good today,” Brocail said. “The adrenaline is starting to flow. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had Norris, Harrell, Zeid, [Ross] Seaton and Cosart at home for the last month and a half [in Houston] and on their bullpen day showed up and worked, and the other days we weren’t throwing bullpens I got to see who was coming in early and busting their hump every single day.”
There was some room for fun. Porter, who was a defensive back at the University of Iowa, pretended to cover Harrell, challenging him to get separation from him.
“It’s very important to have fun,” he said. “You come out here and look at the work schedule and there are portions of the day the work schedule is going to dictate you get right to it, but we get to certain aspects of the day we want these guys to be loose, we want them to have fun and at the same time get their work in.”
Another new wrinkle this year: The pitchers lined up to give each other congratulatory handshakes following the workout, mimicking what happens on the field after a win.
“If you want to be it, you have to be it before you are it,” Porter said. “We talk about the culture, we talk about winning. We’re going to do things around here that symbolizes winning and get these guys’ mindset used to shaking hands.”
Here is the day in photos:
Astros pitchers and catchers hit the field Tuesday morning at Osceola County Stadium for the first official workout of Spring Training. They’ll be joined on Saturday by the rest of the position players, many of whom are already in Kissimmee and working out.
Among those to arrive Tuesday were outfielders Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez, who said he has decided not to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Manager Bo Porter is thrilled to see so many position players in the field.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’ve had great participation in our offseason program and had guys in Houston working out throughout the offseason. You look around from a position-player standpoint, and I want to say we had about 15 players, position players, out yesterday doing a voluntary workout. It shows their anxiousness and excitement to get this thing started.”
Porter plans to address the team prior to Saturday’s workout, but he did have a few words before pitchers and catchers hit the field Tuesday.
“We talked about change,” he said. “You can look around and tell things are changed. We talked about the opportunities that present themselves in this organization. I told them, ‘Embrace both of them. Embrace change and embrace the opportunity,’ and we’re looking for guys to take the bull by the horn and take the opportunity to become Houston Astros.”
Here are some early photos:
Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez arrived in camp Tuesday morning and said he’s not going to play in the World Baseball Classic. Martinez was going to play for Spain, though he was born in the Dominican Republic.
“I’m not going to play,” he said. “I’m going to stay here and prepare for the season.”
Martinez, claimed off waivers from the Mets a year ago, hit .237 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 118 at-bats last year for Houston, playing in a career-high 41 games. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier this year Martinez would hurt his chances of making the club by playing in the Classic, and Martinez heard the message.
“I just thought about and I figured it would be a lost couple of weeks and I want to make the team here,” he said.
Astros pitcher Chia-Jen Lo was originally scheduled to participate in the Classic as well, but had a change of heart.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow met with the front office and the field staff for a few hours Monday afternoon to pore over every player on the Spring Training roster. It’s standard procedure in advance of pitchers and catchers hitting the field Tuesday for the first official workout of the spring.
Pitchers and catchers were officially scheduled to report Monday, and the only player who didn’t show up was catcher Carlos Perez, who’s dealing with visa issues in his native Venezuela. Luhnow didn’t have a timetable for his return, but doesn’t think it will be a long-term issue. The Astros have 29 pitches and six catchers currently in camp.
“The staff, we just all got together upstairs and talked through every pitcher and catcher in camp and it look us a few hours to do that,” Luhnow said. “Really talking about what our expectations are this spring, what’s it’s going to take for them to make the club, what scouting reports do we have for them from last year, talking about new players we haven’t seen yet. Trying to give everybody who’s here in camp as much background as they can on the players that are here.”
Monday’s Astros notebook has updates on who might start on the mound on Opening Day, the health of left-hander Sergio Escalona and more.
Here are some pictures from Monday’s camp activity:
Here are some photos taken Thursday of the activity at Osceola County Stadium, which will host Astros Spring Training beginning next week. Photos are courtesy of Kiwi Global Solutions, LLC.