January 2014

Appel undergoes appendectomy

Astros pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, is recovering after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Thursday.

The Astros, in a release, said Appel’s procedure was standard and “with no complications.” He’s expected to report to Spring Training on time for the Feb. 15 date for Astros pitchers and catchers. Recovery time for an appendectomy for baseball players is typically 2-3 weeks.

“Mark will be fine,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready.”

After throwing 106 1/3 innings at Stanford, Appel was held to 10 starts in his professional debut last year. He went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA between Class A Quad Cities (eight games) and short-season Tri-City (two games), and he should get a full load in his first full season in 2014.

Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Raul Valdes underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday in Houston. Valdes will also report with pitchers and catchers on Feb. 15 and is expected to have a 4-6 weeks recovery. He was claimed off waivers Oct. 2, 2013.

Where does Berkman rank among Astro greats?

MLB.com broke the news Wednesday that long-time Astros slugger Lance Berkman was retiring after 15 seasons in the game, the bulk of which was played in Houston. There will be undoubtedly a lot of discussion in the coming years about Berkman’s legacy and whether he should get elected to the Hall of Fame, which seems like a long shot based on his career numbers.

There is no argument, however, that Berkman will be remembered as one of the greatest Astros players in franchise history. If you look at the Astros’ career record books, three names stick out — Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. They were the Killer B’s, the group that took Astros baseball to new heights in the mid-2000s and helped them reach the World Series in 2005. The Astros, of course, were swept by the White Sox, and Berkman eventually did win a ring following his final productive year with the Cardinals in 2011.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros retire Berkman’s No. 17 at some point as they did with Biggo (7), Bagwell (5) and several others. Here’s where Berkman ranks in the Astros’ career record books:

WAR (Wins Above Replacement)

1. Bagwell, 79.5

2. Biggio, 64.9

3. Cruz, 51.2

4. Cedeno, 49.4

5. Berkman, 48.1


1. Alou, .331

2t. Bagwell, .297

2t. Watson, .297

4. Berkman, .296

5. Gross, .293


1. Berkman. .410

2. Bagwell, .408

3. Alou, .403

4. Gross, .376

5. Spiers, .375


1. Alou, .585

2. Berkman, .549

3. Bagwell, .540

4. Hidalgo, .501

5. G. Davis, .483


1. Alou, .988

2. Berkman, .959

3. Bagwell, .948

4. Hidalgo, .857

5. Ensberg, .843


1. Biggio, 1,844

2. Bagwell, 1,517

3. Berkman, 1,008

4. Cedeno, 890

5. Cruz, 871


1. Biggio, 3,060

2. Bagwell, 2,314

3. Cruz, 1,937

4. Cedeno, 1,659

5. Berkman, 1,648


1. Biggio, 4,711

2. Bagwell, 4,214

3. Berkman, 3,053

4. Cruz, 2,846

5. Cedeno, 2,601


1. Biggio, 668

2. Bagwell, 488

3. Berkman, 375

4. Cedeno, 343

5. Cruz, 335


1. Bagwell, 449

2. Berkman, 326

3. Biggio, 291

4. Wynn, 223

5. G. Davis, 166


1. Bagwell, 1,529

2. Biggio, 1,175

3. Berkman, 1,090

4. Cruz, 942

5. Watson, 782


1. Bagwell, 1,401

2. Biggio, 1,160

3. Berkman, 1,040

4. Wynn, 847

5. Cruz, 730


1. Biggio, 1,014

2. Bagwell, 969

3. Berkman, 727

4. Cedeno, 561

5. Cruz, 553

FanFest photo gallery

Here are some photos from FanFest. I’m nobody’s photographer, but it’s better than nothing…

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Quinton McCracken, Mark Appel, George Springer, David Stearns

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George Springer and Max Stassi

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Carlos Correa

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Mike Foltynewicz

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Carlos Correa

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Max Stassi

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Robbie Grossman

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Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Dominguez

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George Springer, No. 8

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Max Stassi

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Josh Zeid and Jarred Cosart

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Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Mark Appel, Jose Altuve

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Jose Altuve

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Mark Appel

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Jose Altuve

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Josh “Big Country” Fields

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Matt Albers, Chad Qualls, Steve Sparks, Jeff Luhnow

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Jeff Luhnow and Bill Brown in my living room…just kidding

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Lucas Harrell and Chris Carter

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Lucas Harrell

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Brad Peacock

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Jesse Crain and Brett Wallace

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Brett Wallace

Photos from Astros Caravan stops in Galveston

Galveston, oh, Galveston. Country music super star Glen Campbell sang a hit song about the island city years ago, and the city and beach looked spectacular Wednesday when the Astros Caravan come to town. Here are a few photos from the stops:

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Kevin Chapman and Brad Peacock on the bridge of the USCGC Dauntless

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Brad Peacock, Jimmy Wynn and Kevin Chapman alongside Dauntless

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Wynn, Peacock and Chapman meet with members of Coast Guard

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Assistant GM David Stearns talks outside Galveston Convention Center

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Peacock, Orbit and Chapman along Seawall Boulevard

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Orbit has the beach to himself

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Orbit goes all Baywatch

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Jimmy Wynn with a young fan

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Brad Peacock with a young fan

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Peacock and Chapman were a hit with the kids

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Everyone said ‘Go Astros!’

Astros made hefty offer to Tanaka

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday the club made an offer for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, who reached an agreement with the Yankees on Wednesday for seven years and $155 million.

Luhnow said he flew to Los Angeles with owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens to meet with Tanaka. The Astros, who met with Tanaka and his representatives on Jan. 8, were the first team to talk to him when he was in the U.S.

“We did make an offer and were involved,” Luhnow told MLB.com. “We did meet with him and make an offer.”

Luhnow wouldn’t say how much the Astros offered Tanaka, but a source told MLB.com it was more than $100 million. Tanaka’s agreement with the Yankees includes an opt-out clause that can be exercised after the 2017 season, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to MLB.com.

Crane confirmed for reporters on Tuesday the Astros had interest in Tanaka, but didn’t give specifics.

Tanaka, 25, went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles last season, pitching the team to a Japan Series title. The total value of the contract is the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League history, and the Yankees owe a $20 million posting fee to Rakuten under the terms of baseball’s revised posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball.

Tanaka’s first start for the Yankees will likely come at Minute Maid Park in April when the Yankees open the season with three games in Houston.

Pictures from Astros Caravan tour on Tuesday

Here are some various pictures from the Astros Caravan stops on Tuesday:

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Reid Ryan, Alvin mayor pro tem Scott Reed and Milo Hamilton speak at Nolan Ryan Welcome Center

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Astros flag goes up over Nolan Ryan Welcome Center

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Nolan Ryan statue with flags whipping above

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Milo Hamilton, Reid Ryan, Alvin mayor pro tem Scott reed, Alvin city councilman Terry Droege, pitcher Brett Oberholtzer, pitcher Anthony Bass and former pitcher Doug Brocail

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Flags fly over Nolan Ryan Welcome Center, including those representing the four teams Ryan played for

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Jarred Cosart and Jesse Crain with students at Clear Creek High School

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Bo Porter with students at Clear Creek High School

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Bo Porter and Jesse Crain with students at Clear Creek High School

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Jarred Cosart, former Astros pitcher John Hudek and manager Bo Porter sign autographs

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Long-time Clear Creek High School baseball coach Jim Mallory with Jarred Cosart

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Mallory and Cosart visit with a coach

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Jarred Cosart looks around as the gym at Clear Creek High School begins to fill for a pep rally

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Astros flag flies over Houston City Hall

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Former pitcher Doug Brocail, Milo Hamilton, Houston city council member Stephen Costello, Anthony Bass, Brett Oberholtzer and owner Jim Crane in front of Houston City Hall

Castro signs with Astros, avoids arbitration

The Astros reached a one-year contract with All-Star catcher Jason Castro for 2014 to avoid arbitration. Terms of the deal aren’t known.

Friday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration numbers, and Castro’s signing means infielder Jesus Guzman is the only Houston arbitration-eligible player still unsigned. Negotiations can continue up until an arbitration hearing.

“I think it’s a good deal and I’m glad that we were able to come to an agreement, and now we can just kind of shift the focus to getting ready for the season and everything that I would normally do to prepare for spring,” Castro told MLB.com. “I’m excited and ready to get going.”

Castro, 26, was among the top offensive catchers in the Majors last season, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs before landing on the disabled list Sept. 13 after having a cyst removed from his knee. His on-base percentage was .350, with a slugging average of .485. He was named to the American League All-Star team and was a two-time AL Player of the Week Award winner.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said last year he was open to perhaps extending Castro beyond 2014, but that wasn’t discussed during this negotiation.

“We haven’t actually had any discussion about that,” Castro said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m definitely open to anything.”

The former Stanford star was picked 10th overall in the 2008 Draft, and made his big league debut with the Astros in 2010, appearing in 67 games. He missed all of the 2011 season after suffering a major knee injury during the spring of that year.

Astros manager Bo Porter said last month Castro would be his primary No. 3-hole hitter this year.

“Now the focus shifts back to getting ready and get throwing and getting back into catching and all that stuff,” Castro said. “I’m glad to get it all in the rearview and look ahead to spring.”

Astros name Minor League coaches



Field Coordinator                                 Paul Runge

Pitching Coordinator                           Dyar Miller

Hitting Coordinator                              Jeff Albert

Roving Pitching Instructor                  Doug White

Special Asst., Player Development   Dan Radison

Infield Instructor                                   Adam Everett

Special Assignment Coach                 Morgan Ensberg

Strength & Conditioning                     Brendan Verner

Medical Coordinator                            Jamey Snodgrass

Rehab Coordinator                              Daniel Roberts



Manager                                                Tony DeFrancesco

Pitching Coach                                     Steve Webber

Hitting Coach                                        Leon Roberts

Catching Coach                                    Jeff Murphy

Athletic Trainer                                     Mike Freer

Strength & Conditioning                     Alex Pounds



Manager                                                Keith Bodie

Pitching Coach                                     Gary Ruby

Hitting Coach                                        Tim Garland

Infield Coach                                        Tom Lawless

Athletic Trainer                                     Bryan Baca

Strength & Conditioning                     Trey Wiedman



Manager                                                Rodney Linares

Pitching Coach                                     Don Alexander

Hitting Coach                                        Darryl Robinson

Catching Coach                                    Mark Bailey

Athletic Trainer                                     Grant Hufford

Strength & Conditioning                     Mark Spadavecchia



Manager                                                Omar Lopez

Pitching Coach                                     Dave Borkowski

Hitting Coach                                        Joel Chimelis

Outfield/Baserunning Coach             Vince Coleman

Athletic Trainer                                     Michael Rendon

Strength & Conditioning                     James McNichol



Manager                                                Ed Romero

Pitching Coach                                     Chris Holt

Hitting Coach                                        Russ Steinhorn

Athletic Trainer                                     Corey O’Brien



Manager                                                Josh Bonifay

Pitching Coach                                     Josh Miller

Hitting Coach                                        Cesar Cedeno



Manager                                                Marty Malloy

Pitching Coach                                     Hector Mercado

Hitting Coach                                        Ramon Vasquez

Coach                                                     Gordy MacKenzie

Athletic Trainer                                     Christian Bermudez

Strength & Conditioning                     Julio Diaz Berrios



Manager                                                Johan Maya

Pitching Coach                                     Rick Aponte

Hitting Coach                                        Luis Mateo

Outfield Instructor                               Juan Zapata

Catching Instructor                              Sixto Ortega

Athletic Trainer                                     Ambiorix Reyes

Strength & Conditioning                     Geremias Guzman

Astros invite players to Spring Training

Here are the bios of the non-roster invitees announced by the Astros on Tuesday:

1B Japhet Amador, 26, was acquired by Houston on Aug. 18, 2013, from Los Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and went on to hit .302 (13-for-43) in 10 games for the RedHawks. Following the regular season, Amador played for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League and hit .284 (19-for-67) with four homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games. Prior to his acquisition, Amador hit .368 (147-for-400) with 22 doubles, 36 home runs, 121 RBIs and a .419 OBP in 104 games for the Diablos Rojos in 2013. He led the Mexican League in RBIs, while ranking second in homers and third in total bases (277).

RHP Mark Appel, 22, was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft out of Stanford University. After his selection, he made 10 starts combined for Class A Quad Cities (8 games) and Class A Tri-City (two games), combining to post a 3-1 record and a 3.79 ERA (16 earned runs/38 innings pitched). This followed his 2013 senior season at Stanford, where he went 10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA (25 earned runs/1061/3 innings pitched). He recorded 130 strikeouts in his 106 1/3 innings pitched and allowed just a .203 opponent’s batting average in his final season at Stanford.

RHP Jake Buchanan, 24, posted a 12-7 record and a 2.96 ERA (52 earned runs/1581/3 innings pitched) between OKC (12 games) and Double-A Corpus Christi (18 games) in 2013. He began his season with the Hooks, where he was named a Texas League All-Star after putting up a 2.09 ERA (19 earned runs/82 innings pitched) with nine walks in 82 innings. At OKC, he went 5-5 with a 3.89 ERA (33 earned runs/761/3 innings pitched) to go along with 55 strikeouts and 13 walks.

OF Adron Chambers, 27, played in 25 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, his third straight year to play in the Majors. He spent the majority of his season at Triple-A Memphis, hitting .252 (84-for-333) with 13 doubles, eight homers, 43 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He has appeared in 84 Major League games in his career, all coming with the Cardinals from 2011-13.

SS Carlos Correa, 19, who was the first overall selection in the 2012 draft, played his first full professional season at Quad Cities last year, posting a .320 (144-for-450) batting average with 33 doubles, nine home runs and 86 RBIs in 117 games. Defensively, he led all Midwest League shortstops in fielding percentage while playing the entire season at the age of 18. According to MLB.com, Correa is the Astros No. 1 prospect and ranks as the No. 3 shortstop prospect in all of baseball.

RHP Rhiner Cruz, 27, was outrighted off of the Astros’ 40-man roster on Dec. 23, 2013, after having two stints in the Major Leagues with Houston last season. Over those two stints, Cruz posted a 3.38 ERA (eight earned runs/211/3 innings pitched) in 20 appearances. The right-handed reliever has made 72 appearances with the Astros over the last two years after being selected with the first overall pick in the 2011 Rule 5 Major League draft.

RHP Jorge De Leon, 26, posted a 5.40 ERA (six earned runs/10 innings pitched) in 11 games across two stints for the Astros in 2013. He was one of 10 Astros pitchers to make their Major League debut last season, making his on Aug. 9 vs. Texas. The former Minor League infielder converted to the mound in 2010 and has pitched the last four seasons in the Astros system. He was outrighted off the Astros 40-man roster following the season on Oct. 17.

CF Delino DeShields, 21, will be a non-roster invite at Major League Spring Training for his second consecutive season. In 2013 at Lancaster, DeShields hit .317 (143-for-451) with 100 runs scored, 25 doubles, 14 triples, five homers, 51 stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage. The eighth-overall selection in the 2010 draft will come to Spring Training as an outfielder after playing second base in each of his last three professional seasons.

RHP Bobby Doran, 24, combined to go 11-2 with a 3.51 ERA (54 earned runs/1381/3 innings pitched) in 31 games with OKC  (eight games) and Corpus Christi (23gs) last season. The 6-foot-6 right-handed starter was originally drafted by Houston in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Texas Tech. The 2014 season will be his fifth in the Astros; organization.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 22, went 6-3 with a 3.06 ERA (44 earned runs/129 1/3 innings pitched) in 30 games combined with Corpus Christi (23 games/16 starts) and Lancaster (seven games/five starts) last season. The hard-throwing, right-hander registered 124 strikeouts in his 129 1/3  innings pitched last season, while allowing just a .226 opponent’s batting average, including a .207 mark at the Double-A level. He was originally the 19th overall selection in the 2010 Draft.

C Rene Garcia, 23, will be making his fourth consecutive appearance as a non-roster invite at the Astros Major League Spring Training camp. He spent his 2013 season between Oklahoma City (18 games) and Corpus Christi (73 games), combining to hit .293 (108-for-368) with 20 doubles, five home runs and 42 RBIs. Known as a strong defensive catcher, Garcia caught 29 of 63 attempting basestealers (46 percent) in 2013.

C Tyler Heineman, 22, hit .286 (106-for-370) with 23 doubles, 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 104 games with Lancaster last season. The switch-hitting catcher is entering his third professional season, and just his second full season, after being selected out of UCLA in the eighth round of the June 2012 Draft.

OF Leo Heras, 23, like Amador, was acquired by Houston on Aug. 18, 2013, from Los Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League. After his acquisition, he played in 10 games for Corpus Christi, posting two doubles, one triple, one home run and five RBIs for the Hooks. In 91 games for the Diablos Rojos last season, Heras hit .310 (104-for-335) with 19 doubles, nine triples, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and a .398 OBP.

OF J.D. Martinez, 26, hit .250 (74-for-296) with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 86 games for the Astros last season before being outrighted off of the club’s 40-man roster on Nov. 20, 2013. Following the 2013 regular season, Martinez played in 24 games for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a .312 (29-for-93) average with six doubles, six home runs and 18 RBIs. He has appeared in 252 games for Houston over the last three seasons (2011-13).

3B Jonathan Meyer, 23, hit .260 (126-for-484) with 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 68 RBIs en route to being named a Texas League All-Star in 2013. He was the Hooks’ everyday third baseman, making 123 starts at the position. Following the season, Meyer played for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .286 (14-for-49) with three doubles, one homer and seven RBIs.

RHP Peter Moylan, 35, made 14 appearances across two Major League stints with the Dodgers last season. He spent the majority of his 2013 campaign at Triple-A Albuquerque, posting a 4-1 record with four saves and a 2.74 ERA (14 earned runs/46 innings pitched) in 38 appearances. Moylan has pitched in the Major Leagues in each of the last eight years with Atlanta (2006-12) and Los Angeles (2013), making 309 career relief appearances and posting a 21-9 record and 2.80 ERA (86 earned runs/276 innings pitched).

C Carlos Perez, 23, will be making his second straight appearance at Astros Major League Spring Training. He split his 2013 season between Oklahoma City (75 games) and Corpus Christi (16), hitting .271 (86-for-317) with 18 doubles and 37 RBIs. The 2014 campaign will be Perez’s second full season in the Astros system after being acquired in Houston’s 10-player trade with Toronto at the 2012 trading deadline.

IF Gregorio Petit, 29, is joining the Astros from the Padres organization, where he hit .292 (147-for-503) with 26 doubles and 61 RBIs in 134 games at Triple-A Tucson last season. He also had a solid winter league season, hitting .312 (48-for-154) with 12 doubles, 10 homers and 27 RBIs with Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. Petit has some Major League experience, appearing in 25 games with Oakland in the 2008-09 seasons and hitting .278 (15-for-54) in those contests.

OF George Springer, 24, was named the Astros Minor League Player of the Year after combining to hit .303 (149-for-492) with 106 runs scored, 27 doubles, 37 home runs, 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases with OKC (62 games) and Corpus Christi (73 games) last season. He became the first Astros Minor Leaguer to ever reach the 30-homer, 30-steal plateau and fell just three home runs shy of reaching the 40-40 mark, which hasn’t been accomplished in Minor League baseball since 1956. He was originally the 11th overall selection in the June 2011 draft.

RHP Jason Stoffel, 25, posted a solid season in 2013 while pitching in relief for Oklahoma City (44 games) and Corpus Christi (seven games). He combined to go 8-1 with five saves and a 3.23 ERA (25 earned runs/692/3 innings pitched) in 51 appearances, while allowing just a .232 opponent’s batting average. A Triple-A All-Star in 2013, Stoffel was one of two players acquired by Houston from San Francisco in exchange for IF Jeff Keppinger on July 19, 2011.

IF Ronald Torreyes, 21, was originally acquired by Houston on July 2, 2013, from Chicago (NL) in exchange for international signing pool space. On the season, Torreyes combined to hit .269 (101-for-375) with 19 doubles and 37 RBIs for Corpus Christi (38 games) and Double-A Tennessee (65 games). Over his four Minor League seasons, the middle infielder has recorded more walks (98) than strikeouts (96) in 376 career games.

RHP Nick Tropeano, 23, spent his third professional season at Corpus Christi and led the Texas League with 130 strikeouts last season. In what was his first taste of the Double-A level, the fifth-round selection in the 2011 Draft posted a 7-10 record with one complete game, five saves and a 4.11 ERA (61 earned runs/133 2/3 innings pitched) in 28 games, including 20 starts. Tropeano has posted 359 strikeouts in 345 innings in his career in the Astros; Minor League system.

OF Preston Tucker, 23, split his first full professional season with Lancaster (75 games) and Corpus Christi (60 games) after getting drafted by the Astros in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. He combined to hit .297 (159-for-535) with 32 doubles, 25 homers, 97 runs scored, 103 RBIs and an .872 OPS in 135 games between the two levels. Tucker finished his season ranking tied for seventh in all of Minor League baseball in RBIs.

Astros to relocate signs in left field

Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said Tuesday the club plans to relocate the large signs above left field at Minute Maid Park that were put in place as part of its Community Leaders program to a spot that won’t block views of the train, skyline or fireworks.

Ryan said the signs would be lowered to a spot below the railroad tracks and above the left wall and left-center field walls. The signs will be moved by Opening Day.

We’ve listened to the fans,” he said. “This is a great program and it’s unlike any program that’s ever been launched in professional sports that we know of, and what we wanted to do is respect everybody. These corporate partners we have are doing some unbelievable things in the city.

“Fans appreciate the program, but what they want is to be able to see the train, see the fireworks, be able to see the skyline at night. Where the signs are located, it sort of took away from what are some of the best attributes of the stadium and the things that people have come to love over the years.”

Astros owner Jim Crane personally developed plan, which offered corporations the opportunity to partner with the Astros and the Astros In Action Foundation to become part of a team to improve baseball and softball fields in inner-city neighborhoods.

Through its corporate partnerships, the Community Leaders program will ultimately contribute $18 million to the city of Houston over a five-year period for youth baseball and softball programs at zero cost to the city’s taxpayers. The program will provides money for equipment, uniforms and more. The businesses that took part were recognized with their logo on large signs that went up at the ballpark in 2012.

Community Leaders is a five-year program, which matches the corporation’s employees along with wounded veterans as volunteers in the build, refurbishment, and guest services that go along with the plan. Employees volunteer as coaches or mentors at the park, some of which will also be providing wellness and education programs for their patrons.
Ryan said the businesses who are part of the program agreed to the move, along with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.

“It will be much higher visibility for them on a nightly basis,” Ryan said. “It sort of helps us wins with the fans that appreciate attributes of the stadiums they had in the past. It helps win with the program.”

The team will also build a Community Leaders interactive education zone in Home Run Alley on the concourse so fans can see the results of the field renovations with a map of where the fields are located, as well as providing information on future renovations and the corporate partners.

“What we’ve done is come up with a win-win for everybody that lets us take this program to the next level,” Ryan said. “It’s kind of like Community Leaders 2.0 in the fact that it’s off to a great start and these tweaks we’re making to the program are going to make it that much better, and moving the signs are part of the overall, ‘How do we make this better for everybody?’”