Biggio arrives in camp, talks Hall snub

The outpouring of support he received from friends and family members made coming just two votes shy of being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame two months ago easier to swallow for Astros legend Craig Biggio.

Biggio, who arrived in Astros camp on Monday for four days, is likely to get elected next year when he’s on the ballot for a third time, but the man who has more hits than any other Astros player (3,060) and more doubles than any right-hander in history was disappointed.

“I really think the way that everybody’s felt really has made it easier for myself, as far as the disappointment that everybody expressed to me,” he said. “It made it easier for me, per say, just from the standpoint of people wanted it to happen. We kind of hoped it would happen, but it didn’t, but we came close. The way that everybody felt about it, it made it easier for me at least, I know that.”

When asked if he would like to see any changes in the voting process, Biggio said he’s not questioning anything.

“I’m grateful that we came really close and hopefully next year it will be a really magical year,” he said. “Like I said before, it’s not for me. It’s for my family number one, it’s for the fans, it’s for the organization, and I’m fourth on the list. It’s true.

“The Astros don’t have a guy in there, and I couldn’t think of something more exciting than be able to hopefully have that happen for them. You couldn’t get any closer. I knew I needed 39 votes or something from the year before, and we got the 39 votes, except they picked up two more writers.”

Biggio will spend time in camp in uniform and working with the Minor League players and big league players. He just came from North Carolina where he was watching his sons play at Notre Dame while scouting players the Astros are eyeing for the First-Year Player Draft. That included North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, who’s the favorite for the No. 1 pick for the Astros.

“He’s a nice player,” Biggio said.

Rodon pitched Saturday against UCLA in Cary, N.C., and too, the loss despite holding the Bruins to three hits and three walks in seven innings while striking out eight batters. Rodon is 1-2 with a 2.14 ERA in three starts, striking out 23 batters in 21 innings.

His next start will come this weekend against Notre Dame in Raleigh, N.C. Biggio’s youngest son, Cavan, is a freshman infielder for the Irish and has started all 11 games this year, hitting .263. His oldest son, Conor, is a junior who’s an extra outfielder.

Astros director of scouting Mike Elias has been leaning on Biggio to get give him a scouting report of some players while he gets to see his sons play.

“I’ve been in dialogue with Mike Elias and they’ve given me a list of guys that are potential people, and I’ll go look at them and we’ll get the opportunity to go back there for another week and see some more guys and some of the same guys, so it’s good,” he said.

Biggio said the scouting process takes teamwork, and he’s glad to provide it.

“Scouts are a huge part of your organization, and once scouts hand them off to the player development side of things and [director of player development] Quinton [McCracken] and everybody, it’s up to those guys to hopefully teach these young men how to tap into certain things,” Biggio said. “It’s up to them, predominantly. It’s fun with the whole process and the way it works.

“The draft is our future, and I think Mike is doing an excellent job of it so far. If we’re going to a game, we might as well see some guys and help out as much as we can. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Game 3: Solid day on mound for starting candidates

What happened: The Astros beat the Braves, 7-4, on Sunday in their first home game of the Grapefruit League season at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: The work LHP Brett Oberholtzer has been doing with his curveball is giving him confidence to be a solid pitch in his repertoire, instead of just a third pitch. He wants to use it as a weapon to left-handers, but his fastball command will also set everything up. He threw two innings in relief Sunday and gave up three hits and one run.

What we learned II: RHP Jarred Cosart’s adjustments are playing off as well. Cosart breezed through two scorless innings against the Braves, and said holding his hands lower prior to his windup has allowed him to get more angle on some of his pitches. It’s a subtle move, but one that could pay huge dividends.

What else: The Astros had nine hits, four of which went for extra bases. RF Marc Krauss and 1B Chris Carter doubled, and 3B Matt Dominguez and 2B Ronald Torreyes had triples. … C Carlos Corporan drove in a run with a hit and a sacrifice fly. … RHP Anthony Bass continues to impress, throwing another scoreless inning. … The Astros drew two walks with the bases loaded in the eighth inning — RF L.J. Hoes and Torreyes. … CF Dexter Fowler had an outfield assist in the fifth by getting Jordan Schafer trying to stretch a double into a triple. … RHP Jerome Williams threw two scoreless innings.

“I was really pleased with the tempo of the game,” manager Bo Porter said. “I felt like guys went out there today and threw strikes and kept the defense on their toes.”

What went wrong: The Astros were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. … RHP Chad Qualls got on the mound for the first time and gave up two hits and three runs in one inning.

What they said: “The other guys think, ‘I’m not going to walk this guy. I’m going to throw him a good fastball and hopefully he’ll hit it to somebody,’ but the little man can hit,” Astros manager Bo Porter on 5-foot-9 infielder Ronald Torreyes.

What’s next: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel makes his first start of the spring on Monday afternoon when the Astros travel to Jupiter, Fla., to face the Miami Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT. Keuchel is battling for a rotation spot, having gone 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 31 games (22 starts) last year.

Who’s injured: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (calf strain/biceps tendon surgery recovery), OF Adron Chambers (hamstring strain), RHP Jorge De Leon (quad strain), LHP Raul Valdes (left knee surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Tweet of the day:

The day in photos

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Cesar Izturis and Jose Altuve play catch

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Chris Carter

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Bo Porter

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Justin Upton and Dexter Fowler

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Fredi Gonzalez, Bo Porter and Justin Upton

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Jonathan Singleton

Astros meet with Players Association

Astros players held their annual meeting with the Major League Baseball Players Association on Sunday morning, where topics such as the new rules concerning collisions at home plate and expanded instant replay were discussed.

“These meetings are state-of-the-union issues that are at hand, explanations about what’s going on, making sure if those guys have questions, whether you’re a veteran guy or a young guy, if you have questions we answer those things,” said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. “The message is the same. We spend a lot of time before the meeting, spend time after the meeting should there be any individual questions that guys have and we’ll have to answer those as well.”

Catcher Jason Castro, the Astros’ representative to the union, said the meeting was pretty straightforward with respect to the Astros.

“We’re unique because we have so many young guys and [the MLBPA] has a role in helping us understand how things work, why things work and things like that,’ he said. “I think probably it was probably the most specific to us, but as far as Astros-specific issues, there really wasn’t anything. Mostly, it was a state-of-the-Players Association and baseball-related topics like instant replay and catcher’s collisions.”

Clark was asked by reporters about the Astros’ low payroll the last few years, but it didn’t appear to be a concern for the MLBPA. Houston’s payroll finished at around $13 million last year, and it spent about $30 million in salary for 2014.

“We watch all of that,” Clark said. “We watch trends, we watch how certain clubs are functioning, we watch for things that concern us, we watch for things that appear to be going right. Whether it’s Houston or any club, we’re going to pay attention to what’s going on how it inevitably is going to affect players, so we’re watching.”

Game 2: Big inning dooms Peacock, Astros

What happened: The Astros fell to 1-1 in Grapefruit League play by losing to the Tigers, 5-1, on Saturday in Lakeland, Fla. (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Scott Feldman’s arm appears to be in great shape. The veteran pitcher said he usually has some resemblances  of a dead arm this time of year, but he threw two seamless innings Saturday in his start against Detroit. He allowed one hit and one walk, but was otherwise in the rocking chair.

“I threw quality strikes, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Feldman said. “It usually takes a little longer. We’re not going to get away with too many mistakes once the season starts. Right now, I think the pitchers are a little bit ahead of the hitters and all that stuff catches up, and hopefully by the end of the spring I’ll be able to hit my spots and throw the ball where I need to be.”

What else: RHP Mike Foltynewicz finished the game with two scoreless innings and was very impressive, allowing just one hit and no walks. … RHP Jason Stoffel threw a scoreless inning. … RHP Collin McHugh threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits.

What went wrong: The Astros were 4-for-31 against the Tigers, managing singles by Max Stassi, Brett Wallace and George Springer and a double by Carlos Correa, who scored the only run on a Wallace ground out. … RHP Brad Peacock allowed five runs and four hits in one inning of work while he struggled with fastball command.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time to get back on the mound and face some hitters and see where I’m at,” Peacock said. “I have a lot of work to do.”

What they said: “When that ball fell in center field, I told him ‘That’s what you call living right,’” manager Bo Porter on SS Carlos Correa’s fifth-inning double.

What’s next: The Astros play their Grapefruit League home opener when they face the split-squad Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. Right-hander Jarred Cosart, who went 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts in his Major League debut last year, will throw for the first time this spring and pitched two scheduled innings.

Who’s injured: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jessse Crain (calf strain/biceps tendon surgery recovery), OF Adron Chambers (hamstring strain), RHP Jorge De Leon (quad strain), LHP Raul Valdes (left knee surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

DeShields turns to Fowler for outfield advice

Porter getting prepared for new replay rules

DeShields, Springer show off their speed

Ausmus sees little familiarity with current Astros

Tweets of the day:

The day in photos:

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Carlos Correa and Jonathan Villar

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Domingo Santana and Carlos Correa

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Steve Sparks and Brad Ausmus

Game 1: Astros pile up runs, hits against Braves

What happened: The Astros bashed out 12 hits to beat the Braves, 7-5, in their Grapefruit League opener Friday in Lake Buena vista, Fla. (boxscore).

What we learned: The Astros’ approach of practice situational hitting during batting practice appears to have paid off. The Astros were a solid 6-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

“I felt like offensively we had some really good at-bats,” manager Bo Porter said. “We did a tremendous job of situational hitting. When you look at a lot of the situations we put these guys in throughout the course of the first week, week and a half of Spring Training, it was pretty evident they came up real quick today. Man on second base, nobody out. Man on third base, less than two outs. I felt like offensively we really strong together some good ABs.”

What we learned II: RHP Lucas Harrell, who threw 50 pitches in two innings of work, was encouraged by his first outing, which focused on mainly sinkers and changeups. He allowed the Braves to load the bases with no outs in the first inning and allowed just one run, and then he overcame a leadoff walk in the second with three quick outs, including a nice play by shortstop Jonathan Villar.

“I think the second inning was definitely back to normal, what I was in 2012,” Harrell said. “I was pretty encouraged by that.”

What we learned III: Seeing Carlos Correa (SS), Delino DeShields Jr. (CF) and George Springer (RF) all on the field at the same time is rather exciting. All three entered the game in the fifth inning. DeShields and Spinger came on as pinch-runners and both immediately stole bases.

What else: C Max Stassi showed some nice opposite-field pop with a double high off the right-field wall. That came moments after he nearly homered down the right-field line, but watched it go foul. … RF Marc Krauss was the only Astros player with two outs, going 2-for-3. … RF George Springer replaced Krauss in the fifth inning and wound up stealing two bases. Delino DeShields Jr. also had a steal. … Peter Moylan, Darin Downs and Chia-Jen Lo each threw scoreless innings.

What went wrong: The Astros did run into a couple of outs on the bases, but Bo Porter didn’t mind the aggressiveness. … Paul Clemens gave up five hits and two runs in two innings. … Rudy Owens allowed a solo homer.

What they said: “He was floating. It didn’t even look like he was running that fast,”Dexter Fowler on Delino DeShields Jr.’s stolen base in the fifth inning.

What’s next: RHP Scott Feldman, who signed a three-year, $30-million contract with the Astros this offseason, makes his debut for Houston when it travels to Lakeland, Fla., to face the Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday. Feldman pitched for the Rangers from 2005-12 before splitting last year between the Cubs and Orioles. He’s likely going to be the Astros’ Opening Day starter.

Who’s injured: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jessse Crain (calf strain/biceps tendon surgery recovery), OF Adron Chambers (hamstring strain), RHP Jorge De Leon (quad strain), LHP Raul Valdes (left knee surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Feature story and video: No one knows Astros evolution better than Jason Castro.

Notes: Japhet Amador reports to camp, Moylan’s career launched at Champion Stadium, Luhnow to speak at analytics conference, Wojciechowki hopes PRP injection does the trick.

Tweets of the day:

The day in photos:

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Japhet Amador

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Will Tony DeFrancesco get to manage Carlos Correa this year?

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Carlos Correa signs autograph for Astros fan Michael Savage

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Former teammates Matt Albers and Chris Johnson

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Delino DeShields

Amador reports to camp

Japhet Amador reported to Astros camp on Friday afternoon. He went through a physical and worked out with the players who were staying behind at Osceola County Stadium instead of playing in the night game against the Braves at Disney.

Amador, signed last year out of the Mexican League, originally didn’t report to camp because of complications with his wife’s pregnancy. Now that he’s here, he will compete for a starting first base job, and he said he could be ready for game action in three or four days.

Amador’s agent, Oscar Suarez, served as his interpreter when the met reporters.

“It was a tough decision when she was in the hospital,” Suarez said. “It was his family’s decision, her family’s decision, but she’s doing better now. But he’s still worried she might have a setback or two.”

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Japhet Amador prepares to work out

Amador knows a few of the players in camp, having represented the Astros in the Arizona Fall League. Delino DeShields Jr. and Jonathan Meyer were his teammates.

“It was a long season for him since he played winter ball and he got the point he got to mentally get away from the game,” he said.  “Now he’s ready to come back.”

Amador hit 36 home runs for Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He led his team in homers and RBIs, with 121. In 104 games and 449 plate appearances, Amador struck out only 59 times.

“His dream is to become the first baseman here, and he’s got the support of his family, his wife’s family,” Suarez said. “This is where he wants to be, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Asher Wojciechowski was back in camp after flying to Houston for a PRP injection into an injured lat he’s been dealing with for a month.

“It’s feeling fine,” he said. “I think we’re going to give it a couple of more days of rest and then whatever the trainers want to do and go along with how I’m feeling. Hopefully this helps the recovery process.”

Astros relievers show their stuff

Eight relief pitchers took the mound for one-inning stints for hthe Astros on Thursday night during an intrasquad game at Osceola County Stadium. The Astros open Grapefruit League play at 5:05 p.m. CT on Friday against the Braves in nearby Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with Lucas Harrell scheduled to start and throw 45 pitches or two innings.

Bobby Doran, Josh Zeid, Jason Stoffel and Rhiner Cruz pitched for Team Everett, and Chad Qualls, Anthony Bass, Kevin Chapman and Luis Cruz threw for Team Ensberg. The goal for the pitchers in each inning was to try to protect a 2-1 lead.

The only run scored when Carlos Correa hit a grounder up the middle that scored Delino DeShields Jr., who flashed his wheels.

“It was pretty good,” manager Bo Porter said. “I felt like the pitchers did a tremendous job, even a couple of guys who got in trouble, you talk about being able to induce ground balls. I felt like the double plays were huge. When they did get in trouble they were able to induce the ground balls and get the double plays.”

The situational intrasquad game was yet another example of how the Astros have tried to better the focus this spring.

“They continue to do a great job,” Porter said. “Putting these guys in these situations has increased intensity of camp, and I think it’s going to bode well as we move into forward that now they’re ready to play baseball games because of the way we’ve run camp in these first 11 days,” Porter said.

Here are some links:

Astros expect Amador in camp Friday

Meyer embraces the nickname “Yeti”

Tropeano enjoying first big league camp

Correa learning from vet Izturis

Here’s the lineup for Friday’s Grapefruit League opener:

CF Dexter Fowler

2B Jose Altuve

RF Marc Krauss

DH Chris Carter

1B Brett Wallace

3B Matt Dominguez

C Carlos Corporan

LF Robbie Grossman

SS Jonathan Villar

Here are the photos of the day:

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Brett Wallace gets acrobatic

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Jarred Cosart and Matt Albers

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Pitching coach Brent Strom gets hands on with Jorge De Leon

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Tony De Francesco and Domingo Santana

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First base coach Tarrick Brock explains base running

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Catching instructor Jeff Murphy throws BP

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Max Stassi

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Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler interact

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Jose Altuve places a hex on Jonathan Villar

Astros tweets of the day

I was off today for the most part, but don’t think we won’t have tweets of the day:

 

 

Astros tweets of the day

Here are the Astros tweets of the day:

 

 

Amador could report to camp Friday

The agent for Japhet Amador, the burly slugger who didn’t report to Spring Training because of a family emergency, said Tuesday he could report to camp later this week. He has been at home in Mexico dealing with his ailing wife.

The Astros are attempting to have him report to camp by Friday, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

“We’re talking right now,” agent Oscar Suarez said. “We’re just trying to figure it out.”

Amador was signed last year after he hit 36 home runs for Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He led his team in homers and RBIs with 121. In 104 games and 449 plate appearances, Amador struck out only 59 times. He represented the Astros in the Arizona Fall League.

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