The players filed into the Major League clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium on Thursday morning like they’ve done so many times the past seven weeks, this time wearing slacks and sports coats and pulling large suitcases stuffed with clothes. The last day of Spring Training has been circled on the calendar for quite a while, especially for those players who have been in Kissimmee for nearly two months.
The Astros have split-squad games Thursday against the Tigers in Kissimmee and Braves in Lake Buena Vista, but they will be one team when they board the team charter this evening and fly to Houston. Several of the Astros’ top Minor League players are heading to Texas with the Major League club to play in this weekend’s games against the Cubs, including Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Delino DeSheids Jr.
No one is more excited to get home than veterans like Wesley Wright, who are eager to put on the Astros’ new uniforms and play before the home crowd. The Astros will play the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday night at Minute Maid Park and 1:05 p.m. Saturday before opening the season against the Rangers on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Bud Norris will make his first Opening Day start against the Astros, facing Texas lefty Matt Harrrison
“I’m actually pretty anxious myself,” Wright said. “It’s been a little bit of a long Spring Training and I know everybody else is ready to get out of here and play some games that actually count towards the overall goal. We’ve had a good spring so far and that’s a good starting point. There’s a bigger picture out there we have to take care of and we’re excited to get started.”
Designated hitter Carlos Pena, who signed with the Astros in the offseason, is eager to get to Houston.
“We value the time we have here to get ready for the season, but I think everyone is looking forward to getting it going,” he said. “It’s part of the whole process, you know? It’s about time for us to move over to Minute Maid and play a couple of games and get ready for the season. I don’t think anyone is eager to rush it, but at the same time we’re glad we’re moving to the next step.”
Astros lineup vs. Tigers in Kissimmee:
2B Jose Altuve
CF Rick Ankiel
DH Carlos Pena
LF Chris Carter
1B Jonathan Singleton
RF Fernando Martinez
C Jason Castro
3B Matt Dominguez
SS Ronny Cedeno
RHP Philip Humber
Astros lineup vs. Braves in Lake Buena Vista:
RF Brandon Barnes
1B Brett Wallace
CF Justin Maxwell
3B Brandon Laird
C Carlos Corporan
LF Trevor Crowe
SS Marwin Gonzalez
2B Jose Martinez
DH Preston Tucker
RHP Lucas Harrell
The 18-year-old Correa, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base as starting shortstop for the Astros in their 6-2 loss to the Mets on Wednesday night in Port St. Lucie, said the Minor League roster assignments were posted earlier in the day, but he didn’t see them because he was traveling with the big club.
“I think I’m going to Quad Cities, Iowa, and I’m pretty excited about being there and doing my best,” he said.
Correa joined fellow top prospects Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Delino DeShields Jr. in traveling with the Astros so manager Bo Porter could give some of his regulars the day off.
“Being here and playing with the big league club is an amazing experience and you’re here with the big league manager and all that you learned, all that you worked for, you try to show it here,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.”
Correa said his first spring in professional baseball went well.
“Spring was really good,” he said. “So far, there’s new coaches so they have been helping us a lot and they know a lot. I’m very excited about starting the season this year. We’ve prepared ourselves really good this spring, so we’re really excited.”
Now that he has all the information, Bo Porter must decide between Brad Peacock or Alex White for the fourth slot in the Astros rotation.
Peacock strengthened his case Tuesday night by allowing one run and two hits in five innings against the Yankees. Here’s how each has done this spring:
Peacock: 19 2/3 innings, 16 hits, 7 earned runs (3.20 ERA)
White: 19 2/3 innings, 33 hits, 15 earned runs (6.86 ERA)
The pitcher that doesn’t make the rotation will pitch out of the bullpen.
“I went in there and wanted to throw strikes and keep the ball down and let the defense do the work, and they played great behind me today,” said Peacock, who threw 71 pitches. “That’s what I wanted to do.”
Porter was in no hurry to anoint a fourth starter on Tuesday.
“The good news is we have until Saturday to make a decision because that fourth starter doesn’t go until [April 5 against Oakland],” he said. “It’s something that we’ll sit down and talk about and make a decision.”
The rest of the rotation is set with Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber and Erik Bedard, who’s been appointed the fifth starter.
Peacock had good fastball command at Steinbrenner Field and wished for better secondary stuff, though Porter was happy he threw a pair of sliders to left-handers. For Peacock, who had a rough 2012 at Triple-A Sacramento, it’s about confidence.
“In the dugout, I visualize what’s going to happen, what hitters are coming up,” he said. “I just want to throw that pitch, what I see in my head. That’s what I do.”
Peacock and White have developed a close relationship over the past few weeks and are cut from the same cloth – soft-spoken southern who just want to help the Astros win.
“I don’t care where I’m at,” Peacock said. “I real excited I made the team, and hopefully I can take advantage of the opportunity.”
Astros pitcher Alex White didn’t have the kind of spring that made anyone’s eyes pop out, and his results — a 6.87 ERA in 19 2/3 innings — weren’t great, but overall White is satisfied with being able to get his pitch count up and put himself in position to win a rotation spot.
He says he’s where he wants to be with all five pitches, though his change-up was a little iffy in his five-inning out Monday against Washington.
“Spring, for me, has always been tough, just trying to get ready for the season, especially this year competing for a job,” White said. “It’s been a good spring for me. I feel really good coming out of it and I’m just excited about the season.”
White threw a spring-high 84 pitches against the Nats.
“I wanted to get my pitch count up, obviously, and treat it like a real start,” White said. “I had good stuff and a real good sinker, real good split tonight. I got a lot of ground balls and gave up a few hits and a few runs.”
White will make the Astros’ Opening Day roster, but it remains to be seen whether he’s in the bullpen or the rotation. White and Brad Peacock are battling for the fourth spot in the rotation, and whoever doesn’t win it will begin the year as a long man in the bullpen.
“Me and Brad have gotten pretty close and we talk about it a lot,” White said. “We just want to help this team win and both of us will do either job pretty well, I think, and we’re comfortable in both spots and we’re excited about the opportunities.”
Peacock will get his turn on Tuesday night against the Yankees in a game that will be televised by MLB Network at 6:05 p.m. CT.
“I think we’ll sit down as a staff and talk about both guys and figure out what’s the best thing to do after Peacock starts tomorrow night,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “They’ve both have done a tremendous job and that’s why they were both informed today that they both had made the ballclub. I don’t think we can make a wrong decisions because they both have done a tremendous job.”
When asked about White’s so-so spring numbers, Porter said: “I’m extremely pleased. You look at the fact his groundball ratio is where we expected it to be, he’s pounding the strike zone, he’s getting himself built up to the point that even when he’s gotten into jams, he’s been able to make quality pitches to get out of the jams. We’re pleased with Alex and we expected him to have a big year.”
Here’s a video of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter on Monday’s roster activity:
The Astros moved a huge step closer to finalizing their roster on Monday, trimming their Spring Training roster to 26 players.
Astros manager Bo Porter, general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant general manager David Stearns brought nine players into an upstairs conference room inside the team’s clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium and informed them they were making an Opening Day roster for the first time: right-handers Brad Peacock and Alex White, left-hander Xavier Cedeno, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Carlos Corporan and outfielders Justin Maxwell, Brandon Barnes, Chris Carter and Fernando Martinez.
“It’s pretty special to be on an Opening Day roster and to have nine guys, this being their first time, we saw it fitting to get all those guys together and kind of let them share in the moment together,” Porter said.
“What we did today was the same thing I did last year with [manager Brad] Mills was one of the more enjoyable experiences that a general manager will have,” Luhnow said. “We had a pretty large, significant group of players who had never been on an Opening Day roster before and to be able to bring them all in a room at this time of year when people are nervous about getting called into a room and notify them that not only are they making an Opening Day roster for the first time, but they’re part of history [is fun].
“As the Astros move to the American League to begin the second part of the century, it’s a significant event, not just for the Astros, but for baseball. Because they are going to be on an Opening Day roster for a first time, they’re young and their futures are ahead of them are they’re doing it all together. It’s incredible, the look on their faces. Some of them were expecting it but until you hear it and know you’re going to be a part of it. … When they’re there Sunday night and lining up between first base and second base and seeing the American flag behind them and Texas flag in front of them and 45,000 Astros fans, it’s going to hit them this is a special moment.”
The team also informed these non-roster players they wouldn’t make the club: right-hander Jose Valdez, left-hander Kevin Chapman, infielder Brandon Laird, catcher Rene Garcia and infielder Jose Martinez. They will travel with the team to Houston for this weekend’s exhibition games against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park.
Also, right-hander Chi-Jen Lo was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Here’s who’s left on the roster:
INFIELDERS (6) — Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Ronny Cedeno, Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace.
OUTFIELDERS (5) — Chris Carter, Rick Ankiel, Brandon Barnes, Fernando Martinez and Justin Maxwell.
CATCHERS (2) — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan.
PITCHERS (13) — Hector Ambriz, Erik Bedard, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz, Josh Fields, Edgar Gonzalez, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Bud Norris, Brad Peacock, Jose Veras, Alex White and Wesley Wright.
- Bedard has won the fifth starter spot, so Peacock and White are going for the fourth spot. The other will pitch in bullpen.
Astros pitcher Brad Peacock was smiling ear-to-ear Monday afternoon after being informed by manager Bo Porter, pitching coach Doug Brocail and members of the front office he had made the 25-man roster.
Peacock and outfielder Brandon Barnes were among the players told they had made the club. Infielder Brandon Laird was told he was being reassigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Peacock, 25, will be on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career after spending all of last season at Triple-A Sacramento in the Oakland organization. He made his Major League debut with Washington late in the 2011 season and was 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three games.
“I’m excited and hopefully I can take advantage of his opportunity,” Peacock said. “What I went through last year — I came into camp not even knowing if I had a chance — I proved myself and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Peacock, who was one of three players acquired by the Astros last month from Oakland in the Jed Lowrie trade, didn’t say if he was destined for the rotation or the bullpen. He was 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA in 28 games (25 starts) at Sacramento last year, including 6-3 with a 4.14 ERA after the All-Star break.
Laird didn’t make the club despite a terrific spring in which he hit five homers and had 12 RBIs. He fell victim to a numbers game in the infield and the fact the Astros wanted to carry five outfielders.
“I felt like I did everything I could in spring to make the team and it’s their decision,” he said. “I have to go to Triple-A and continue to play and I’ll be up there shortly. They basically said it was between me and Barnes and they wanted someone who could come in late in the game and play defense in the outfield. So, I’ll continue to go down and work and be back up shortly.”
Astros starting lineup Monday vs. Nationals:
2B Marwin Gonzalez
3B Brett Wallace
1B Carlos Pena
LF Chris Carter
RF Fernando Martinez
CF Justin Maxwell
C Jason Castro
DH Rick Ankiel
SS Ronny Cedeno
RHP Alex White
With a week to go before the season opener — and against my better judgment — I’m going to take a crack at what the Astros’ 25-man roster will look like at the start of the season. Let me know what you think.
INFIELDERS (6) — Jose Altuve, Ronny Cedeno, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Pena (DH), Brett Wallace.
- Brandon Laird could be the odd man out and that would be a crime. Laird has had a terrific spring, but it’s hard to envision any of the players above not making the team.
OUTFIELDERS (5) — Rick Ankiel, Brandon Barnes, Chris Carter, Fernando Martinez, Justin Maxwell.
- This would leave out Trevor Crowe, who has plenty of tools. But it certainly appears Barnes will make the club.
CATCHERS (2) — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan.
STARTING PITCHERS (5) — Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Alex White, Erik Bedard.
- I’m picking White and Bedard over Brad Peacock, who could start the year in Triple-A.
RELIEF PITCHERS (7) — Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz, Josh Fields, Edgar Gonzalez, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright.
- Chia-Jen Lo’s had a great spring, but I still see him beginning the year in Triple-A.
The Astros made official what MLB.com first reported Saturday by announcing the signing of veteran shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who will be in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Marlins.
Cedeno, who was released by the Cardinals last week, and Marwin Gonzalez will split time at shortstop to begin the regular season after the club informed Tyler Greene on Saturday he wasn’t going to make the club. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow pursued Cedeno in the offseason, but weren’t aggressive considering they had Jed Lowrie in the fold.
“When he became available, we went back to our original plan,” Luhnow said. “He sees an opportunity here to be, if not an every day, a guy that get a lot of playing time. Ronny has a lot of experience at the big league level. He’s only 30 years old, but he plays winter ball just about every year. I’ve been following his career since he was a prospect with the Cubs.
“He is defensively very, very good and with our young pitching staff, our ground ball staff, we felt we needed a reliable defensive player that could help the pitchers. The last thing we want to do is extend innings by not being able to make plays. Ronny is also a Major League hitter, and I think he’s going to give us an opportunity to produce some runs from that position as well.”
Greene is out of options and Luhnow said the team exploring options with other clubs regarding Greene, who struggled this spring.
“Tyler did a good job for us last year as part of this team,” Luhnow said. “He’s got value. He’s a Major League player and I think it’s more the emergence of Marwin, feeling that after Marwin spent all year with the club last year and the things he’s been able to show us this spring, being a switch-hitter, being very solid defensively, being able to play third base, second base, shortstop. I think all of that led us to feel Marwin beat out Tyler for a position on the team.”
Also, the team optioned outfielder J.D. Martinez, who started in left field last year for the Astros on Opening Day, to Triple-A Oklahoma City and also reassigned catcher Jason Jaramillo to Minor League camp
Cedeno, 30, played for the Mets last year and appeared in 78 games, hitting .259 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 186 plate appearances. He’s a career .247 hitter with 37 homers and 218 RBIs in an eight-year career with the Cubs, Pirates, Mariners and Mets.
“I’m very excited to be here,” Cedeno said. “I can be an everyday player and that’s very important. It’s kind of frustrating because I got released in St. Louis and they pushed me to get here and I have an opportunity, and now I’m going to enjoy it.”
The Astros traded shortstop Jed Lowrie in February and came to camp with Greene and Gonzalez vying to be his replacement. They’ve both had 42 at-bats in 18 games this spring, and Greene is hitting .167 with no RBIs and Gonzalez is hitting .238 with a homer and two RBIs.