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Astros announce Minor League coordinators, medical and field staffs

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

Manager                                              TBA

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

Gregerson sees a good fit in Houston

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.”

 

 

Feliz a late addition to Astros roster

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wasn’t joking when he said Wednesday the team planned to use as much time as necessary to set its 40-man roster in advance of Thursday’s 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. And with an hour to spare, the Astros made a late addition.

Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz, who was left off the 40-man in the announcement the Astros made earlier in the day, was added to it about an hour prior to the deadline, putting the roster at 39. Luhnow said the Astros were working on a trade that didn’t come to fruition, prompting them to put Feliz on the roster.

Earlier on Thursday, the Astros added right-hander Vincent Velasquez and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the roster, while losing right-hander Josh Zeid to waivers to the Tigers and outrighting right-hander Anthony Bass to Triple-A Fresno. Bass was arbitration eligible, which gives him the option to elect free agency or accept the outright assignment.

“We intentionally did not say that was our final roster because we knew we had until 11 o’clock tonight,” Luhnow said. “There’s always a lot of discussion the day of the roster setting. It’s a good opportunity for teams to talk and see if someone needs to be protected and maybe another team wants him you could swap guys like that. We had a couple of things cooking and nothing came to fruition.”

When asked if the team was working on a deal involving Feliz, Luhnow declined to elaborate.

“All along, I said we were going to use our available time and we were working on something that didn’t come to fruition and the end result of that is we’re putting Feliz on the roster,” Luhnow said.

The Astros have one roster spot remaining to add a free agent or acquire a player in the Rule 5 Draft, though Luhnow hinted Wednesday the Astros might be inclined not to make a selection. The Astros could still open some 40-man roster spots as well.

Feliz, the Astros’ seventh-ranked prospect, is perhaps the hardest thrower in the system, sustaining mid-90s mph over the course of seven innings. He has starter potential and is making strides developing his secondary pitches.

He went 8-6 in 25 appearances (19 starts) with Quad Cities (Class A) in 2014 with a 4.03 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings pitched. Feliz, who was originally signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, participated in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game as a member of the World Team roster.

“He pitched an inning in the Futures Game, and that was his coming out part to the industry and we definitely feel worthy of a roster spot,” Luhnow said.

Astros face 40-man roster decisions

The Astros, like all Major League teams, face a 10:59 p.m. CT deadline Thursday to set their 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. After the trade two weeks ago that brought catcher Hank Conger to Houston, the Astros have 38 players on their roster, so they have two additional slots to add to players to protect them from getting exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.

Here are the 38 players on the 40-man roster:

Pitchers (19) – Anthony Bass, Jake Buchanan, Kevin Chapman, Luis Cruz, Sam Deduno, Darin Downs, Scott Feldman, Josh Fields, Mike Foltynewicz, Will Harris, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, Chad Qualls, Tony Sipp, Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski, Josh Zeid.

Catchers (4) – Jason Castro, Hank Conger, Carlos Corporan, Max Stassi.

Infielders (7) – Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Marc Krauss, Gregorio Petit, Jon Singleton, Jonathan Villar.

Outfielders (7) – Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, Jake Marisnick, Alex Presley, Domingo Santana, George Springer.

DH (1) – Chris Carter.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he will use as much time as necessary to decide which players to protect in advance. One of the factors the Astros take into consideration when deciding which players to protect is whether that player is likely to stick on another team’s Major League roster. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team’s 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.

Players not on the team’s 40-man roster who signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years or were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years can be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. The Draft his held Dec. 11 at the end of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

“You have to prepare for the possibility of signing some free agents prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which means that you’ve got to leave a couple of spots open,” Luhnow said. “You have to take a guess as whether that’s one, two three or four spots you need to leave open, and you’ve got to consider the risk of leaving players exposed to the Rule 5, and that’s really the biggest consideration.”

Here’s a list of Astros Minor League players eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the 40-man.

Right-handers — Ruben Alaniz, Agapito Barrios, Jamain Cotton, Chris Devenski, Jonas Dufek, Michael Feliz, Edison Frias, Jandel Gustave, Angel Heredia, Krishawn Holley, Juan Minaya, Jose Montero, Tyson Perez, Francis Ramirez, Richard Rodriguez, Jason Stoffel, Fredrick Tiburcio, Vincent Velasquez, Andrew Walter, Kyle Weiland

Left-handers — Colton Cain, Ambiorix De Leon, Evan Grills, Reymin Guduan, Mitchell Lambson, David Rollins, Tommy Shirley, Blaine Sims.

Infielders — Delino Deshields Jr., Matt Duffy, Jose Fernandez, Alex Gonzalez, Jonathan Meyer, Jiovanni Mier, Chad Moon, Jose Solano, Ruben Sosa, Ronald Torreyes

Outfielders — Ydarqui Marte, Jorge Martinez, Brandon Meredith, Telvin Nash, Ariel Ovando, Jordan Scott, Danry Vasquez.

Catchers — Jobduan Morales, Robert Pena.

Zinter thrilled to wear a big league uniform again

Alan Zinter played in more than 1,800 Minor League games, but only 67 Major League games, so he doesn’t taking putting on a big league uniform lightly. He was 34 years old when he made his Major League debut in 2002 when he played in 39 games for the Astros, and he had a cup of coffee with the D-backs a couple of years later.

He’s the definition of a baseball grinder, a man who’s worked hard and paid his dues just to get a taste of life in the big leagues. And he hasn’t stopped since his playing days ended. Zinter, 46, spent the last three seasons as Cleveland’s Minor League hitting coordinator (2012-14) after serving as a hitting coach in Arizona’s minor league system from 2008-11.

The goal was to get back to the big leagues. The Astros hired him on Tuesday to be their assistant hitting coach, giving Zinter a second life as a Major Leaguer.

“This is my second career,” he said. “I love the game of baseball. To be fortunate enough to play for such a long time and only have a little bit over a year, two different years at the end of my career [in the Majors], left me hungrier for more. I wanted to stay in the game and I wanted to be a hitting coach and I just wanted to make an impact and help the kids.

“My goal is to work with the best in the world and be a Major League hitting coach. This is obviously a really close step towards that in the big league. Luckily, now they have assistant coaches that are part of the staff. I’m very fortunate. This is awesome. This feels like when I just got called up in 2002 with the Astros. It ranks right up there with everything.”

Astros hire Zinter as assistant hitting coach

The Astros have hired former Major Leaguer Alan Zinter as their assistant hitting coach, general manager Jeff Luhnow said. He had been serving as the Minor League hitting coordinator for the Cleveland Indians.

Zinter appeared in 67 career games – 39 with the Astros in 2002 and 28 with Arizona in 2004 –and has a solid reputation in baseball circles.

“There’s a lot of people in our organization that know him well,” Luhnow said. “He’s really developed as a hitting coach in Cleveland and he came strongly recommended. We’re happy to have him. He’s going to be a great complement to [hitting coach] Dave Hudgens and a good addition to our coaching staff.”

Ralph Dickenson, who served in the assistant hitting coach role last season, will be a roving Minor League instruction, joining Jeff Albert. The hiring of Zinter rounds out the Astros coaching staff.

Here is manager A.J. Hinch’s coaching staff.

Bench coach: Trey Hillman

First base coach: Rich Dauer

Third base coach: Gary Pettis

Hitting coach: Dave Hudgens

Assistant hitting coach: Alan Zinter

Pitching coach: Brent Strom

Bullpen coach: Craig Bjornson

Astros eager to improve club this offseason

With free agency set to start early next week, the Astros are already doing their homework in preparation of being active in the market, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros, coming off a season in which they improved by 19 wins, are seeking to upgrade their bullpen, corner infield and add some power to the outfield and are willing to increase their payroll by at least $20 million more to achieve those goals.

Luhnow said the Astros have already targeted a list of players they want to go after and will be soon reaching out to their agents to express interest.

“It’s just a matter of how much interest they’re going to get and what kind of timetable they want to run,” Luhnow said. “But we’ll be there, we’ll be involved.”

Luhnow has already reached out to about a dozen teams and had relatively in-depth conversations about offseason needs while starting to explore the trade market. By the time Luhnow gets to the General Mangers’ Meetings in Phoenix early next month, he’ll have talked to every team prior to getting a chance to sit face-to-face with some teams.

“There’s been some turn over in front offices,” Luhnow said. “We think we know what players might be available, but you never know until the season’s over and people are taking stock of their areas of improvement and where they have excess and you never know where there’s going to be a match. You’ve just go to talk to everybody.”

When asked if the Astros would be active this offseason, Luhnow didn’t hesitate.

“I think we will sign a free agents, and I think we’ll make a trade or two,” he said. “That’s status quo for us. I don’t have anything necessarily in the works or specifically in mind right now. You definitely think of ways you improve your team every conversation you have.”

Peacock could miss start of regular season

Astros right-hander Brad Peacock could miss the start of the 2015 regular season while he recovers from arthroscopic surgery performed earlier this month on his right hip to repair a torn labrum and remove bone spurs.

Peacock, whose surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 6, said he will be on crutches for five more weeks before undergoing two months of rehab, but said Tuesday he’s already feeling better.

“I can already stretch my leg farther than I did before surgery,” he said.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Peacock’s rehab will put him behind at the start of spring camp next year, which could impact his readiness for the beginning of the season.

“It looks like he’s going to be rehabbing and will not be ready for the start of Spring Training, and at this point is questionable for the start of the season,” he said. “But we’re hoping it won’t be too far into the season he’ll be ready to go 100 percent.”

Peacock started the season in the bullpen before making 24 starts in the rotation, setting career highs in appearances (28), starts (24), innings pitched (131 2/3) and strikeouts (119). He went 4-9 with a 4.72 ERA.

Peacock, who tenuously held down the No. 5 spot in the pitching rotation late in the year, dealt with back problems in September, which could have been a result of his hip injury.

“My hip has locked up the last couple of years, but it didn’t really hurt when I pitched,” he said. “When [assistant athletic trainer] Rex [Jones] was stretching me this year, it kind of worsened and I couldn’t stretch my leg out. He wanted to get it checked out, and we did and I had surgery.”

Peacock said an MRI at the end of the season showed some arthritis in the hip, and doctors weren’t sure what they would find until they performed surgery.

“He went in and I woke up and they told me what happened: torn labrum and a little piece of bone lodged in my hip,” he said. “They did some clean up.”

Luhnow said doctors believed surgery would be the best option.

“He felt it during the season, but it was kind of off and on,” he said. “We had the doctors look at it and they decided they wanted to take care of it. I think it will be beneficial for him in the long term, but it does mean he’s going to get off to a late start in the spring.”

Because the procedure was microfracture surgery, Peacock said it doubled the amount of time he’ll have to wear crutches and rehab.

“They said it could be causing my back problems and I was like, ‘Heck yeah, let’s do it,’” he said. “I’ve been having some back problems the past couple of years also. I wanted to go it as soon as possible.”

Fowler to join Altuve in Japan

Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler said Saturday he had accepted an invitation to play for the MLB All-Star team during the All-Star Series 2014, which is a five-game series against Japan’s national team next month in Japan.

Fowler was invited by the Major League Baseball Players Association to join the tour, which includes Astros teammate Jose Altuve. Fowler hit .276 with a .375 on-base percentage and eight homers and 35 RBIs in his first season with the Astros.

“It’s an honor to be accepted to represent MLB in Japan for the Japanese tour,” Fowler said. “I’m very excited and humbled at the opportunity.”

The team, which will be managed by John Farrell, includes MLB All-Stars Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The first game will be held on Nov. 12 at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, with games two through five at the Tokyo Dome Nov. 14-16. The fifth and final game will be No. 18 at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo. Two exhibition games will complement the five-game series, with one game in Osaka (Koshien Stadium) and the other in Okinawa (Okinawa Cellular Stadium).

Keuchel a Gold Glove finalist in AL

Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel is one of three finalists at his position selected Thursday as a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, joining Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

Keuchel, a left-hander, is vying to become the first Astros pitcher to win a Gold Glove and the first Astros player in the American League to receive the honor. Houston hasn’t had a Gold Glove winner since outfielder Michael Bourn won his second in a row in the National League in 2010.

According to FanGraphs, Keuchel led Major League pitchers with 10 defensive runs saved compared to the average player at his position.

The winners will be revealed at 6 p.m. CT Nov. 4 on ESPN2.

The award is based 75 percent on input from AL managers and coaches and 25 percent on defensive metrics. As many as seven personnel per team may vote for the award, but voters are prohibited from selecting someone from their own team.

Buehrle is a four-time Gold Glove winner (2009-11 in AL, ’12 in the NL).

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