As promised, the Astros opened up their wallet this offseason by spending (so far) $27.5 million in free agency for 2015 with the additions to Colby Rasmus, Jed Lowrie, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. They shed Dexter Fowler’s contract, but picked the up contracts of Luis Valbuena ($4.2 million), Evan Gattis, Hank Conger and Dan Straily in trades.
With the newcomers and the raises several players received in arbitration, the Astros’ 2015 payroll should come in around $70 million on Opening Day.
“Those are some pretty significant investments we made we are expecting to pay off in 2015,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “I do think it’s been a nice position to be in, and the fact we have a TV deal in place, our fans are starting to get excited and want to come check out what we’ve done. It all should build what I call a cycle where we increase our revenues and are able to increase our payroll next year and beyond that as this team continues to progress and become a playoff team as soon as possible.”
Here’s a look at the team’s 2015 salaries:
Scott Feldman $10,000,000
Colby Rasmus $8,000,000
Jed Lowrie $8,000,000
Luke Gregerson $6,000,000
Pat Neshek $5,500,000
Luis Valbuena $4,200,000
Chris Carter $4,175,000
Jason Castro $4,000,000
Chad Qualls $3,000,000
Jose Altuve $2,687,500
Tony Sipp $2,400,000
Jon Singleton $2,000,000
Hank Conger $1,075,000
Marwin Gonzalez $1,062,500
Alex Presley $1,000,000
If the final 10 players on the 25-man roster, all of which will be players with 0-3 years of service time and not yet eligible for arbitration (assuming they don’t sign another player), make an average of $550,000, that’s roughly another $5.5 million in salary on the books.
Thus, the total is roughly $68,600,000.
Free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus took a physical in Houston on Tuesday in attempts to reach a deal with the Astros.
Rasmus, 28, spent the last four seasons with the Blue Jays after coming up with the Cardinals, where he was drafted by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow when he was scouting director in St. Louis. Rasmus is a career .246 hitter with 116 homers and 352 RBIs in six seasons, hitting .225 with 18 homers and 40 RBIs last year.
“He was the scouting director in St. Louis and I’ve always been pretty tight with him,” Rasmus told MLB.com. “He was always good to me. I think he’s been good through this process.”
Rasmus said no deal is in place with the Astros, but a physical is typically the last step towards a deal being reached. Free agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was also in Houston on Tuesday to take a physical amid reports he’s in serious discussions with the Astros.
“I’ve always liked playing against the Astros and the way they’ve handled themselves,” Rasmus said. “I played with Lance Berkman, who was loyal to his time here. That was something that was on my mind, hearing him talk about it. Obviously, Jeff being the scouting director that drafted me, it looks pretty enticing.”
If the Astros are able to sign Rasmus they’d have another outfielder to put into the mix just one day after trading away starting center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena. Rasmus would give the Astros another left-handed bat.
Rasmus, who is from Alabama, said playing for a team in the south appeals to him, as well as being in the same division as his brother, Cory, who’s a pitcher with the Angels.
“I play hard and I would like to get back on some grass,” Rasmus said. “The turf in Toronto was pretty rough playing up there. Being in this division to be able to stay in some [warmer] climates and my brother is playing with the Angels and to be able to see him on some trips is pretty cool.
“To be in Texas and in the south– some people think that’s crazy – but it would be a beautiful thing to be close to home. I live nine hours away and all those things would help me be a better ballplayer and be relaxed and comfortable, and some of the guys on the team I know are great guys who I’ve played against.”
Vogelsong went 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 32 starts for the World Series champion Giants last year. He has a career 49-57 record with a 4.42 ERA in 10 Major League seasons with the Pirates and two stints with the Giants. His best year was in 2011 when he made the All-Star team in a season in which he finished 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA with the Giants.
Free agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who is in contract discussions with the Astros, arrived in Houston on Monday. That’s a clear sign Vogelsong is poised to take a physical prior to possibly signing a deal with Houston.
Vogelsong, when contacted by MLB.com late Monday, declined comment, but the veteran right-hander has been on the Astros’ radar in recent days, and general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier Monday the team would still like to add a starting pitcher.
Vogelsong went 8-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 32 starts for the World Series champion Giants last year. He has a career 49-57 record with a 4.42 ERA in 10 Major League seasons with the Pirates and two stints with the Giants. His best year was in 2011 when he made the All-Star team in a season in which he finished 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA with the Giants.
The 2011 season was his first in the Majors since 2006. In between, he played in Japan and had Minor League deals with the Phillies and Angels before resurfacing with the Giants. He was 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA for the Giants in 2012.
If the Astros are able to close the deal with Vogelsong, it would be their latest addition to a busy offseason that has included the signing of relievers Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie, as well as trades to bring in slugger Evan Gattis from the Braves and Monday’s trade that netted infielder Luis Valbuena and pitcher Dan Straily from the Cubs.
The Astros reached one-year deals with catchers Jason Castro ($4 million) and Hank Conger ($1.075 million) and left-handed pitcher Tony Sipp ($2.4 million) prior to Friday’s deadline for arbitration eligible players to exchange numbers with their teams.
The club had previously reached deals with designated hitter Chris Carter ($4.175 million) and backup catcher Carlos Corporan ($975,000) this week, leaving them with two players still unsigned: outfielder Dexter Fowler and infielder Marwin Gonzalez.
Castro, who made $2.45 million last year, was arbitration eligible for the second time.
“It was right where we thought we wanted to be, where we kind of fit in with the market and all that,” Castro said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of conversations with the team prior to today, not as much as last year. The gap we were looking last year just wasn’t there this year and we had a more clear picture where’d end up.”
After making the All-Star team in 2013, Castro hit just .222 last year with 14 homers and 56 RBIs in a career-high 126 games. Sipp flourished after signing with the Astros in May, posting a 3.38 ERA in 56 games (50 2/3 innings).
Conger, traded to the Astros from the Angels in November, has played in 251 games with the Angels in the past five years in a backup role and will serve in a similar capacity behind Castro. Conger is a career .224 hitter who last season batted .221 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 80 games.
After the players and the teams exchange desired salary figures for 2015, they can continue to negotiate contracts. If no agreements are reached, the players and the teams will next month present their cases before an arbitration panel, which will choose either the team’s figure of the player’s desired salary. Most deals are reached prior to that, however.
Evan Gattis, traded by the Braves to the Astros on Wednesday, will hold a conference call with members of the media on Thursday afternoon. But not before he took a few minutes to visit with MLB.com about the trade and what it means to him.
The Astros traded three prospects – pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz – to the Braves in exchange for Gattis, who hit 43 homers in 211 games in his first two seasons in the Major Leagues with the Braves. He’s battled injury problems during his career, but he passed a physical Wednesday and gives the Astros another 30-homer threat at Minute Maid Park with Chris Carter and George Springer.
Gattis was primarily a catcher with the Braves, but the Astros will him in left field, first base and designated hitter as well.
Here’s part of his talk with MLB.com:
Q: What is your reaction to the trade?
A: “I’m excited. We’re going to have a good power lineup and a good young team. I’m just excited.”
Q: The lineup could have some thumpers with Chris Carter and George Springer and yourself. How enticing is that?
A: “And it kind of feeds off each, too. It’s contagious, especially in the lineup. We’ve got back-to-back-to-back-to-back guys that can hit, hit for power. It could be scary, especially when you mix in guys like [Jose] Altuve and Dexter Fowler. They’re getting on base all the time and there’s going to be a lot of RBI potential, a lot of run-scoring potential.”
Q: What are your thoughts on playing left field?
A: “It’s really too early. We’ll see how it shakes out and see where our pieces end up at the end of spring. I think it’s too early to say what I’ll be playing more of. I’m not really worried about positioning and stuff like that right now. I’m just ready to get after it, you know? I was prepared to go play left field with the Braves situation, too, so it’s not like anything will really change on my end.”
Q: How do you feel about hitting at Minute Maid Park?
A: “It’s a good hitter’s park.”
Q: What do you think of the future of the Astros considering the pieces they’re adding?
A: “I think the Astros could have a better year next year than we did last year.”
Q: You were born in Dallas and still live in that area. What does it mean to come home to Texas?
A: “Everybody’s already texted me and made me well aware how many times we go to Arlington and everything else. I’ll have tons of people.”
Mike Foltynewicz saw his name in trade rumors for most of Wednesday, but it wasn’t until general manager Jeff Luhnow called him later in the evening did the rumors become a reality. Foltynewicz, one of the Astros’ top pitching prospects, was heading to the Braves.
The Astros traded Foltynewicz, pitcher Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz in exchange for slugger Evan Gattis and right-hander James Hoyt. The hard-throwing Foltynewicz, who made his Major League debut last year, was expected to compete for a spot in the Astros’ rotation.
“You wake up in the morning and all of a sudden your name has been tossed around in some trade rumors and you’re shocked and waiting around all day and not getting back until 9 o’clock at night to find out you’ve been traded is a little shocking,” he said. “The Astros made my dreams come true. They gave me an opportunity to be in the big leagues, and they need something else right now, so they had to do what they had to do.”
Foltynewicz, the No. 19 overall pick in the ’10 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut at the end of last season after going 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 games (18 starts) at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’s looking forward to a new start in Atlanta.
“They gave me a call and said they’re happy to have me in the organization and they’ve got some high expectations and they’re real excited to have me,” he said. “They thought I was a big part of the deal to get traded. That’s my main goal is try to be a starter. That’s what I’ve been molded into my Minor League career, but whatever they want me to do I’ll do it.”
Ruiz was taken in the fourth round of the ’12 Draft after being offered a hefty bonus by the Astros, who signed No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa for less money than some other potential top picks so they could sign Ruiz and Lance McCullers Jr. away from college commits.
Ruiz hit .294 with 11 homers and 77 RBIs last year at Class A Advanced Lancaster, but found himself behind Colin Moran on the depth chart after the Astros acquired the former No. 6 overall pick from the Marlins in July. Moran is coming to spring camp and could be in the lineup at some point this year.
“Today was a little overwhelming, but I’m looking at it as another opportunity to showcase my talents and make my way to the big leagues,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he wasn’t sure if he would come to Major League camp.
“I’m sure they’re going to have me go in early and become acclimated with everybody, hopefully a little quicker than going into regular Spring Training,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll go in there early, whether in big league camp or showing up early and seeing faces and getting to know names.”
Thurman, a second-round pick out of UC-Irvine in 2013, was 11-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 38 games (25 starts) in his pro career. He spent last season at Class A Quad Cities, going 7-9 with a 5.38 ERA.
“I don’t know too much about trades and what goes into it,” Thurman said. “I know Evan Gattis is a good player, and I know the Astros are looking to do well at the big league level. And I know they had to give away some stuff to get a good player like him.”
Still, the trade caught him a little off guard.
“But I’m excited to get the opportunity to play for the Braves,” he said
Craig Biggio’s career spanned 20 years in Houston (1988-2007) and three major uniform changes, from the rainbow sleeves (1989-1993) to the blue and gold shooting star (1994-99) look and to the brick red and pinstripes, which the team began wearing when Minute Maid Park (then Enron Field) opened in 2000.
Now that Biggio has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he’ll have to decide which logo will appear on his plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y. Players get to choose with help from the Hall of Fame, and it’s not always cut and dry. When Greg Maddux was elected to the Hall of Fame recently, he chose not to have any logo on his cap because of his success with the Cubs and Braves. Tony La Russa also doesn’t have a logo. So which cap logo would you like to see on Craig Biggio’s bust in Cooperstown? Vote now.
The Astros announced their Minor League coordinators, medical staff and field staffs for the 2015 season. The coordinators will be Paul Runge (field coordinator), Dyar Miller (pitching coordinator), Jeff Albert (hitting coordinator), Ralph Dickenson (roving hitting instructor), Doug White (roving pitching instructor), Adam Everett (infield instructor) and Mark Bailey (catching instructor). Morgan Ensberg will serve as a minor league special assignment coach while Gary Ruby will be a pitching advisor. Brendan Verner (strength and conditioning coordinator), Jamey Snodgrass (medical coordinator), Daniel Roberts (rehab coordinator), Mike Burns (rehab coach) and Mike Freer (athletic training advisor) comprise the club’s minor league medical staff.
The 2015 managerial corps is made up of Tony DeFrancesco (Triple A Fresno), Rodney Linares (Double A Corpus Christi), Omar Lopez (Class A Advanced Lancaster), Josh Bonifay (Class A Quad Cities), Ed Romero (Class A Short-Season Tri-City), Marty Malloy (Rookie Level Gulf Coast League), Johan Maya (Rookie Level Dominican Summer League) and Charlie Romero (Rookie Level Dominican Summer League). Rookie Level Greeneville’s manager is to be announced.
The Astros are returning 61 coaches, coordinators and medical staffers from the 2014 season.
COORDINATORS AND MEDICAL STAFF
Paul Runge returns for his fifth consecutive season as the Astros minor league field coordinator. Prior to joining Houston’s organization in 2011, Runge compiled 14 years of minor league managerial experience, all coming in Atlanta’s system, which included two Appalachian League Championships while managing Rookie Level Danville (2006, 2009). Runge enjoyed an eight-year Major League playing career with Atlanta from 1981-88.
Dyar Miller returns to the Astros for his third season as pitching coordinator, and his 31st season working in player development. Miller joined the organization in 2013 following a five-year stint with the Cardinals, which included a year as the bullpen coach for the Major League club (2012) and four seasons as the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator (2008-11). Miller’s pitching career lasted 17 seasons (1968-84), which included nine Major League seasons with four different MLB clubs (Baltimore, California, Toronto, New York Mets). In his seven seasons in the Majors, he produced a career 23-17 record with 22 saves and a 3.23 ERA in 251 games as a reliever.
Jeff Albert enters his second season as hitting coordinator after joining the Astros in 2013 as the club’s roving hitting instructor. Albert began his coaching career with the Cardinals organization in 2008 as the hitting coach at Class A Short Season Batavia before moving up to Class A Advanced Palm Beach, where he served as hitting coach from 2009-12. A graduate of Butler University, Albert played professionally in the independent leagues and also received his Master’s degree in Exercise Science at Louisiana Tech University. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
After spending the 2014 season as the Astros Major League assistant hitting coach, Ralph Dickenson returns to the organization as roving hitting instructor in 2015. Dickenson joined the Astros in 2013 as the club’s minor league hitting coordinator following three seasons as a hitting coach in the Blue Jays system at the Double A and Class A levels from 2010-12. He has been an instructor at the professional or collegiate level for 37 seasons, serving as a manager, hitting instructor, field coordinator and hitting coach during his career. Selected by Minnesota in the supplemental first round of the 1969 draft out of Arizona State University, Dickenson spent six years in the minors as a two-way player, appearing in 368 games in the outfield and 134 on the mound.
The 2015 season will be Doug White’s second as roving pitching instructor, and his third overall with the Astros after joining the club in 2013 as pitching coach for the New York-Penn League Champion Tri-City ValleyCats. Before joining the Astros, White spent five seasons as a pitching coach in the Cardinals minor league system at the Class A Short Season (2008) and Rookie (2009-12) levels.
Former Astros shortstop Adam Everett returns to his role as infield instructor for the third straight season. Last season, Everett was added to the Major League coaching staff on Sept. 1 where he served as interim bench coach for Astros interim manager Tom Lawless. In his current role, Everett works with both the Major League team and minor league players, focusing on the development of infielders. Known for being one of the greatest defensive shortstops in MLB history, Everett played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues (2001-11), including seven with the Astros (2001-07). Prior to starting his coaching career with Houston in 2013, Everett spent 2012 as a special assistant to the baseball operations department with the Cleveland Indians.
Former Astros catcher and Major League bullpen coach Mark Bailey enters his 17th year as a coach or instructor in the Astros organization, and his first as a roving catching instructor. Bailey has spent the last two seasons as a developmental specialist with a focus on catching for Double A Corpus Christi. A mainstay in the Astros organization since beginning his coaching career as a hitting coach with Class A Advanced Kissimmee in 1998, Bailey has spent a total of seven seasons as a hitting coach in Houston’s system, and from 2002-09 spent eight seasons as the Astros Major League bullpen coach. A catcher during his playing days, Bailey played in parts of seven seasons with Houston (1984-88) and San Francisco (1990, 1992).
Morgan Ensberg returns to the Astros for his third season and his second as a minor league special assignment coach. In his current role, Ensberg travels throughout the Astros system to instruct infielders and work with the club’s minor league players. In 2013, Ensberg joined the professional coaching ranks as an infield coach with Class A Advanced Lancaster. The former third baseman played eight seasons in the Major Leagues with the Astros (2000, 2002-07), Padres (2007) and Yankees (2008). After his playing career, he served as a coach for the University of Southern California and the University of California, San Diego. He also spent time as a college baseball analyst for ESPN and as a co-host for SiriusXM’s MLB Roundtrip radio show.
Gary Ruby will have a new role in 2015 as pitching advisor in what will be his ninth year with the club. Ruby spent parts of the last three seasons as pitching coach at Double A Corpus Christi, and in 2013 was named the Texas League Coach of the Year. Ruby joined the coaching ranks in 1987 with the Indians organization, and has also worked in the Pittsburgh (2001-06) and Philadelphia (1998-2001) minor league systems.
Brendan Verner returns for his third season as strength and conditioning coordinator after joining the organization in 2013. Prior to joining the Astros, Verner served as San Diego’s assistant strength and conditioning coordinator at the minor league level from 2011-12. Verner spent two seasons as Cleveland’s assistant strength and conditioning coach at the Major League level from 2007-08, and also spent four years working as a strength and conditioning coach in both the Cleveland and Pittsburgh minor league systems. Verner graduated from Cleveland State University with a Master of Arts in Exercise Science, and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a registered strength and conditioning coach and a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Jamey Snodgrass begins his 17th season in the Houston Astros organization and his fifth as the club’s medical coordinator. Prior to his current post, he served as the athletic trainer for Double A Corpus Christi (2005-10), Double A Round Rock (2003-04), Class A Michigan (2001-02) and Class A Auburn (1999-2000). During his 12 seasons as a trainer, Snodgrass received Trainer of the Year awards in both the Texas League (2005) and Midwest League (2001-02). In his current role, he also works with the Major League players in Spring Training and in September.
Daniel Roberts returns to his role as the organization’s rehab coordinator for the fifth consecutive season. Roberts is based out of the Astros Spring Training complex in Kissimmee, FL, where he assists injured and recovering Major and minor league players with the medical rehabilitation process. Prior to joining the Astros in 2011, Roberts served as an assistant athletic trainer at Charleston Southern University.
Former Astros reliever Mike Burns returns to the organization for his second season as the club’s rehab coach. Burns was a member of the 2005 National League Champion Astros club, and made 60 total Major League appearances across three seasons with Houston (2005), Cincinnati (2006), Boston (2006) and Milwaukee (2009). The right-hander was drafted by the Astros in the 30th round of the 2000 MLB draft and spent the first five seasons of his career in Houston’s minor league system.
Longtime Astros trainer Mike Freer is entering his 26th season in the Astros organization and will have a new role for the 2015 season as athletic training advisor. After spending the last 18 seasons as the Astros trainer at the Triple A level, Freer will be based out of the Astros complex in Kissimmee, FL, and will spend time roving throughout the Astros minor league system. Freer joined the organization in 1990, and was named the Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in 2003.
TRIPLE A FRESNO GRIZZLIES
Tony DeFrancesco returns for his fifth season as Houston’s manager at the Triple A level, his 21st season as a minor league manager and his 31st as a player, coach or manager in professional baseball. Under DeFrancesco’s leadership, which began in 2011, the Astros Triple A clubs have gone 263-244 (.519) while posting a winning record in each of the last three seasons. In 2013, DeFrancesco led Triple A Oklahoma City to the club’s first division title since 2010 with 82 wins, which paced the Pacific Coast League and marked the second-most in RedHawks history for a single season. While DeFrancesco has been the Astros Triple A manager since 2011, he was named interim manager of the Astros Major League club for Houston’s final 41 games of the 2012 season. Prior to joining the Astros, DeFrancesco spent seven seasons as manager at Triple A Sacramento in Oakland’s organization, where he guided the River Cats to six first-place finishes and three PCL Championship titles.
Arthur “Ace” Adams joins the Astros for his first season as the Grizzlies pitching coach after spending the last seven seasons as a pitching coach in the Cardinals minor league system (2008-14). Leon Roberts returns for his fourth season as hitting coach for the Astros Triple A club. Jeff Murphy returns for his second season as a developmental specialist with a focus on catching at the Astros Triple A affiliate. Bryan Baca enters his first season as athletic trainer for the Astros Triple A club and his ninth year overall with the organization. Trey Wiedman will serve as Fresno’s strength and conditioning coach for the first season in what will be his fourth year with the Astros.
DOUBLE A CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS
Entering his ninth consecutive season as a manager in the Astros organization, Rodney Linares heads to Corpus Christi for his first season as the Hooks manager. Linares spent the last three seasons as manager at Class A Advanced Lancaster, where he led the club to two California League Championship titles (2012, 2014) while winning the California League Manager of the Year Award in 2013. The JetHawks posted a winning record in each of their three seasons under Linares, combining for a 234-186 (.557) record. Now in his 17th season with the Astros organization, Linares joined the coaching ranks in 1999 with Houston following a two-year playing career in the Astros (1998) and Tigers (1997) minor league systems.
Doug Brocail begins his first season as the full-time pitching coach at Double A Corpus Christi after spending much of 2014 serving the position in an interim role. The veteran of 16 Major League seasons was named Special Assistant to the GM and Senior Pitching Advisor prior to the 2014 season, following a stint as the Astros Major League pitching coach from 2011-13. Dan Radison returns to the Astros for his first season as hitting coach at Corpus Christi and his third in the organization. Radison served as a special assistant in player development in 2014, and was the Astros assistant hitting coach on the Major League staff in 2013. Tom Lawless enters his seventh consecutive season with the Astros and his first as the Hooks developmental specialist with a focus on infielders. Last season, Lawless served a multitude of roles throughout the organization, including interim manager of the Major League club, interim manager of the Triple A RedHawks, and roving infield instructor. Grant Hufford will be with the Astros for his eighth season, and his first as Corpus Christi’s athletic trainer. Mark Spadavecchia returns to the Astros for his third season, and his first as the Hooks strength and conditioning coach.
CLASS A ADVANCED LANCASTER JETHAWKS
Omar Lopez joins the JetHawks for his first season as manager and his 17th overall with the Astros organization. Lopez has spent the last two seasons as manager of the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits, and in 2013 led the club to the Midwest League Championship title after an 81-57 finish in the regular season. Lopez has served as a manager in the Astros system for Rookie Level Greeneville (2011-12), the Gulf Coast League Astros (2009-10) and the Venezuelan Summer League Astros (2008). He has been with the Astros organization since 1999 and in 2010 earned the Astros Player Development Man of the Year Award.
Joining Lopez on the coaching staff will be Don Alexander (pitching coach) and Darryl Robinson (hitting coach), who return in the same roles they held last season. Alexander has been a pitching coach in the Astros system since 2005, has spent a total of 17 years in Houston’s organization and has been Lancaster’s pitching for the last three seasons. Robinson has been the JetHawks hitting coach since 2009, and in 2013 was named the California League Coach of the Year after his JetHawks led the minors in runs (976), walks (669), on-base percentage (.384) and OPS (.853). Ramon Vazquez returns to the JetHawks for his second season as a developmental specialist with a focus on infielders. Vazquez was the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Astros in 2014 following a 16-year playing career, which included nine seasons in the Major Leagues. Michael Rendon begins his first season as the JetHawks trainer and his fifth with the Astros. Taylor Rhoades returns to the Astros organization for his second season, and his first as Lancaster’s strength and conditioning coach.
CLASS A QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS
Josh Bonifay begins his first season as manager at Quad Cities after spending the last two years as manager at Rookie Level Greeneville. Bonifay, who joined the Astros in 2011 as Greeneville’s hitting coach, was named the Appalachian League Manager of the Year in 2013 after leading the club to a 38-30 record (second-best record in franchise history) and a berth in the Appalachian League Championship Series. An eight-year minor league veteran, Bonifay began his coaching career as a player/coach in the Pirates organization (2007-09) before joining the Astros. In 2012, he was named to the South Atlantic League Postseason All-Star Team as a coach.
Dave Borkowski (pitching coach) and Joel Chimelis (hitting coach) return to the River Bandits in their same roles. Borkowski, a former Astros pitcher, will be Houston’s Class A pitching coaching for the fifth consecutive season, while Chimelis will be returning for his 10th season (2006-14) in the Astros system and his third as Quad Cities hitting coach. Tim Garland joins the River Bandits as their developmental specialist (outfield/baserunning) following a two-year stint as Corpus Christi’s hitting coach. Corey O’Brien will be the River Bandits athletic trainer in 2015 in what will be his fourth season with the Astros. Dwayne Peterson will be the River Bandits strength and conditioning coach in what will be his second season with the Astros.
CLASS A SHORT SEASON TRI-CITY VALLEYCATS
Former Major Leaguer Ed Romero returns for his third season as manager of Tri-City after leading the club to the New York-Penn League Championship Series in 2014 and a NYPL Championship title in 2013. The 2015 season will be his 23rd year as a professional manager or coach. He is six years removed from the Astros Major League staff, having served as the club’s bench coach in 2009 and the third base coach in 2008. He has managed a total of 13 seasons in the minor leagues between the Houston, Milwaukee and San Diego organizations.
Romero’s staff will consist of Chris Holt (pitching coach), Russ Steinhorn (hitting coach), John Gregorich (athletic trainer) and Dwayne Peterson (strength). Holt returns to the ValleyCats for his second season, while Steinhorn will be the club’s hitting coach for the third consecutive season. Gregorich enters his first season with the ValleyCats and his second overall with the Astros. James McNichol returns to the Astros for his third season, and his first as Tri-City’s strength and conditioning coach.
ROOKIE LEVEL GREENEVILLE ASTROS
Greeneville’s manager is TBA, but the coaching staff will consist of Josh Miller (pitching coach) and Cesar Cedeno (hitting coach). Miller, a former Astros minor league pitcher, will be Greeneville’s pitching coach for the third straight season after spending two years as a professional scout for the Astros (2011-12). Cedeno returns to Greeneville for his fourth consecutive season. The four-time All-Star played 12 seasons (1970-81) with the Astros and collected five Gold Gloves as an outfielder. Following his playing career, Cedeno served as a coach or instructor for the organization for 10 seasons (1990-94, 1997-2001).
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE ASTROS
Marty Malloy returns to the GCL Astros for his third season overall and his second as manager. Malloy played 12 seasons (1992-2003) of minor league baseball and appeared in 35 career Major League games while playing for Atlanta (1998) and Florida (2002).
Hector Mercado (pitching coach), Gary Ruby (pitching advisor), Vinny Lopez (hitting coach) and Wladimir Sutil (coach) will be joined by Julio Diaz (strength coach). Mercado has been coaching in the Astros system for five seasons, which has included four seasons in the GCL (2010-11, 2013-14) and one year at Greeneville (2012). Ruby, the 2013 Texas League Coach of the Year, has been with the Astros for the last eight seasons, including the last three as pitching coach for Double A Corpus Christi. Lopez returns to the Astros for his second season as hitting coach with the GCL Astros. Sutil, who played in the Astros minor league system from 2004-11, enters his second season as a coach and his first with the GCL Astros. Last season Sutil was a coach with Greeneville. Diaz returns to the GCL Astros for his second season and his third overall with the organization.
ROOKIE LEVEL DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE ASTROS
The two Astros Dominican Summer League teams will be managed by Johan Maya and Charlie Romero. Maya is entering his third season as a DSL Astros manager after serving two seasons as the infield instructor for the Astros Dominican operations. Romero, who has managed over 1,000 games in the DSL, is beginning his second season as a manager for the DSL Astros. Rick Aponte returns to the DSL Astros for his third season, and his first as a developmental specialist and pitching coordinator. Aponte has worked 38 seasons in the Astros minor league system, which included a 14-year run (1993-2006) in the Dominican. Former Astros minor league pitcher Erick Abreu returns for his second season as a pitching coach in the DSL. Luis Mateo returns for his seventh season as hitting coach, while Sixto Ortega will also serve as a hitting coach. The specialist positions will be filled by Melvi Ortega (outfield) and Carlos Lugo (catching). Ambiorix Reyes and Christian Bermudez will serve as athletic trainers, while Miguel Angel Cabrera and Geremias Guzman (11th season) will be the strength and conditioning coaches.
2015 MINOR LEAGUE STAFF
COORDINATORS, ROVERS & MEDICAL STAFF
Field Coordinator Paul Runge
Pitching Coordinator Dyar Miller
Hitting Coordinator Jeff Albert
Roving Hitting Instructor Ralph Dickenson
Roving Pitching Instructor Doug White
Infield Instructor Adam Everett
Catching Instructor Mark Bailey
Special Assignment Coach Morgan Ensberg
Pitching Advisor Gary Ruby
Strength & Conditioning Brendan Verner
Medical Coordinator Jamey Snodgrass
Rehab Coordinator Daniel Roberts
Rehab Coach Mike Burns
Athletic Training Advisor Mike Freer
TRIPLE A FRESNO
Manager Tony DeFrancesco
Pitching Coach Arthur “Ace” Adams
Hitting Coach Leon Roberts
Dev. Specialist (Catching) Jeff Murphy
Athletic Trainer Bryan Baca
Strength & Conditioning Trey Wiedman
DOUBLE A CORPUS CHRISTI
Manager Rodney Linares
Pitching Coach Doug Brocail
Hitting Coach Dan Radison
Dev. Specialist (Infield) Tom Lawless
Athletic Trainer Grant Hufford
Strength & Conditioning Mark Spadavecchia
CLASS A ADVANCED LANCASTER
Manager Omar Lopez
Pitching Coach Don Alexander
Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson
Dev. Specialist (Infield) Ramon Vazquez
Athletic Trainer Michael Rendon
Strength & Conditioning Taylor Rhoades
CLASS A QUAD CITIES
Manager Josh Bonifay
Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski
Hitting Coach Joel Chimelis
Dev. Specialist Tim Garland
Athletic Trainer Corey O’Brien
Strength & Conditioning Dwayne Peterson
CLASS A SHORT SEASON TRI-CITY
Manager Ed Romero
Pitching Coach Chris Holt
Hitting Coach Russ Steinhorn
Athletic Trainer John Gregorich
Strength & Conditioning James McNichol
ROOKIE LEVEL GREENEVILLE
Pitching Coach Josh Miller
Hitting Coach Cesar Cedeno
Athletic Trainer TBA
Strength & Conditioning TBA
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE
Manager Marty Malloy
Pitching Coach Hector Mercado
Hitting Coach Vinny Lopez
Coach Wladimir Sutil
Strength & Conditioning Julio Diaz
ROOKIE LEVEL DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE
Manager Johan Maya
Manager Charlie Romero
Dev. Specialist/Pitching Coord. Rick Aponte
Pitching Coach Erick Abreu
Hitting Coach Luis Mateo
Hitting Coach Sixto Ortega
Outfield Specialist Melvi Ortega
Catching Specialist Carlos Lugo
Athletic Trainer Ambiorix Reyes
Athletic Trainer Christian Bermudez
Strength & Conditioning Geremias Guzman
Strength & Conditioning Miguel Angel Cabrera
In addition to the $18.5 million he will receive over the next three years from the Astros, relief pitcher Luke Gregerson told MLB.com on Thursday the chance to be reunited with manager A.J. Hinch played a big role in his decision to come to Houston.
Gregerson, in Houston to take a physical, said he had a lot of respect for the first-year Astros manager and talked to him often when they were together in San Diego. Hinch worked in the San Diego front office for four years before joining the Astros. Gregerson pitched for the Padres from 2009-13 before playing for the A’s last year.
“I’m really excited to see A.J. Hinch over here,” he said. “I got to spend some time with him there in San Diego, so that was another deciding factor in me coming in. I see a lot of potential. In San Diego I go to talk to him a whole bunch on plane flights. I got to talk to him about baseball and his life and whatever. I love his knowledge of the game and I think he’s going to have a lot to say about this team.”
The Astros are scheduled to introduce Gregerson and fellow newcomer Pat Neshek at a press conference Friday at Minute Maid Park. The relievers will shore up a bullpen that’s been among baseball’s worst the last few years. Gregerson, Neshek and Chad Qualls were all on the Padres in 2011, though Neshek bounced between the Majors and Minors.
“Obviously, you’ve seen it over and over again,” he said. “If you can’t hold onto a lead late in the game, it’s hard to win a lot of ballgames. They’ve definitely taken the right steps in making sure that doesn’t happen this year.”
Gregerson will make $6 million in 2015, $6.25 million in ’16 and $6.25 million in ’17. The contract also has enough incentives written into it that Gregerson could make as much as $21 million total over the three-year span.
Gregerson, 30, has long been one of the most dependable setup men in the game. His ERA has steadily dropped since his first season, 2009, when he went 2-4 with a 3.24 mark in 72 games for San Diego. Last season, his first with the A’s after five with the Padres, he went 5-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 72 outings. He has made at least 61 appearances in each of his six big league seasons, and at least 72 in five of them.
He hasn’t had a chance to close because he’s been on the same teams as Heath Bell and Huston Street, but he wouldn’t mind the opportunity.
“I’m ready for whatever they’ve got in store for me,” he said. “I’ve always said I feel like the seventh, eighth, ninth inning they’re all very similar. It’s a mental block you have to get past knowing it’s the last inning and that’s one of the most important and make sure you get the last three outs of the game and get your team the win. I’m up for whatever they have in store for me.”
Gregerson faced the Astros nine times last year and was impressed with the improvements the young team made.
“That’s an important part of the game,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of young guys that are transitioning to the big leagues a little quicker than they used to, maybe, and I think the way this team was fun to watch, and not so fun to pitch against.”