Results tagged ‘ Jim Crane ’

Astros plan to remove Tal’s HIll for 2016

The Astros have received preliminary approval from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority their plans for a $15-million renovation to Minute Maid Park that would include the removal Tal’s Hill in center field and moving the flag poles so they’re no longer in play.

Astros owner Jim Crane thanked the Sports Authority for their support at a meeting Thursday morning and said the renovation project would begin as soon as the season ends and would be finished in time for the 2016 season. The renovations would include more fan-friendly areas in center field.

The Astros hope to eventually open a Hall of Fame beyond center field or in Union Station, but that’s not part of the $15 million plan that’s been approved. The Astros will pay for the project.

“We’ve been working for some time to look at how we can improve the ballpark and we’ve gone through a number of renovations, including the diamond club, the club level, the locker rooms, the offices,” Crane told “This is one of our big projects we knew we wanted to do. We did a lot of studies on other ballparks on the entertainment areas in center field and ours is very outdated over the life of the stadium, which has been great.

“We’ve submitted a plan to renovate center field and make it more fan-friendly and get more participation from the fans and really draw some more people in there.”

Crane said the center field fence, which currently sits 436 feet from home plate, would be brought in to about 409 feet. The extra space beyond the wall would be used for additional concessions and fan-friendly areas where spectators can watch the game.

Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan and senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite toured more than 20 ballparks last year to get ideas for reimagining the center field area.

“As you know, Tal’s Hill, some people love it, some people hate it,” Crane said. “We just thought it would be a better ballpark by moving that in. It will still be a very deep center field. There’s always been concern with the flag poles in play and danger in that and also the injuries going up the Hill, so we think this would be better for the players, utilize the space better and be a very pretty ballpark.”

Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000, is owned by the taxpayers of Harris County and the city of Houston, so any changes must be approved by the Sports Authority, which serves as the landlord.

“Any time our tenants want to spend a significant amount money to upgrade our facilities, I think it’s in the taxpayers’ best interest to do that,” said Kenny Friedman, chairman of the Sports Authority. “We’ve been working with them all along on what their ideas are. They have great ideas, and I think the public will be excited by what they’re planning on doing there.”

Brathwaite, who said the Astros will begin putting the center field project out to bid soon to make sure they’re staying with in the budget, said the eventual Hall of Fame concept will aim to preserve the legacy of the franchise.

“We want to make sure we’ve have a great home to celebrate the tremendous history we have here,” he said.

Astros payroll could reach $60 million in 2014

Astros owner Jim Crane said last week the team would be in position to increase its payroll next year, and on Tuesday he gave his first indication just how much money could be spent on players.

Crane said the Astros’ payroll, which was at about $13 million to end the season, could be between $50-60 million next year regardless whether the club is able to settle its disagreement with Comcast. The Astros contend Comcast/NBC improperly filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition in an attempt to prevent it from terminating the media rights agreement between the team and Houston Regional Sports Network.

The Astros on Monday filed a motion to dismiss an involuntary Chapter 11 filed by four Comcast affiliates against Houston Regional Sports Network, the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston.

“If this gets resolved, we could go a little bit deeper,” Crane said.

The Astros are encouraged by some of the young talent that hit Houston last season and are even more enthused about the prospects that are now sitting at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues and could make an impact next year. Still, the Astros will be in the market this winter for a closer, an outfielder with some pop and a veteran starting pitcher.

That means the Astros could have about $30 million to spread among three or four players, but don’t expect general manager Jeff Luhnow to make a run at any of the higher-end free agents just yet.

“I would say [the payroll] could go to $50-60 [million] very quickly, and if this gets resolved it could go higher,” Crane said. “We’re not going to make a move unless it fits into the plan, and we’re not going to rush the plan. Jeff’s got a very systematic formula and we do have some good players coming up. You add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we’ve got. We’re deep in pitching.”


First day of full workout goes well for Astros

Astros hitters will get their first look at live pitching during workouts Sunday, when the pitchers will throw to batters with a screen in front of the mound. There will be four days of live batting practice before the manager Bo Porter will hold an intra-squad game on Thursday.

“I just want the pitchers to make it through safe,” Porter said. “That’s more pitching practice than live batting practice. Whenever you incorporate screens and the backstops, that’s always been tough on the position players. It’s more about the pitchers than anything else. It does all those guys good to see a live arm and pick up the velocity on the baseball.”

The team will meet with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association on Friday and hold a like workout in advance of Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. Porter said the real evaluating of the players won’t begin for a while.

“Right now I’m honing on guys’ workouts,” he said. “When you get to the beginning stages of Spring Training and you don’t have the competition aspect of another team, you want to watch guys and see how they work. You watch them from a fundamental standpoint and see if anyone needs extra, extra, extra work as far as a particular fundamental.”

Porter stressed fundamentals to his club again Saturday, saying that in the American League teams don’t usually bunt until they’re behind late in the game. He said it’s vital teams field those bunts successfully to get outs to increase their chances of winning.

“You increase your chances of winning the game when you execute these plays properly,” he said. “It puts an emphasis on it, and the players actually understand the significance.”

  • In case you missed it, Astros owner Jim Crane told he was looking forward to playing golf with President Barack Obama on Sunday. Obama is spending the weekend at Crane’s Floridian National Golf Club. has the details.

Here are the pictures of the first full-squad workout:

Justin Maxwell poses for a baseball card photo.

Justin Maxwell poses for a baseball card photo.

Nate Freiman signs for fans.

Nate Freiman signs for fans.

Chris Carter poses for a baseball card photo.

Chris Carter poses for a baseball card photo.

Chris Carter and Carlos Pena talk at the cage.

Chris Carter and Carlos Pena talk at the cage.

Carlos Pena takes BP.

Carlos Pena takes BP.

Hitting coach John Mallee talks to J.D. Martinez at cage.

Hitting coach John Mallee talks to J.D. Martinez at cage.

Lucas Harrell looks for someone to high five.

Lucas Harrell looks for someone to high five.

Astros players with post-workout handshake.

Astros players with post-workout high five.

Former Astros MVP Richard Hidalgo, who lives in the area, watches the workout.

Former Astros MVP Richard Hidalgo, who lives in the area, watches the workout.

Pitcher Sam Demel throws to first base.

Pitcher Sam Demel throws to first base.

Third base coach Dave Trembley gives directions.

Third base coach Dave Trembley gives directions.

Morgan Ensbergh, infield coach for Class A Lancaster, hits grounders.

Morgan Ensberg, infield coach for Class A Lancaster, hits grounders.

Former Astros SS Adam Everett, an infield instructor, hits grounders.

Former Astros SS Adam Everett, an infield instructor, hits grounders.

Bud Norris.

Bud Norris.

Bo Porter talks to the media.

Bo Porter talks to the media.

Jim Crane talks to the media.

Jim Crane talks to the media.

Jim Crane's helicopter takes off.

Jim Crane’s helicopter takes off.

Crane arrives in Kissimmee, addresses team

Jim Crane's helicopter sits on Field 5 in Kissimmee.

Jim Crane’s helicopter sits on Field 5 in Kissimmee.

The day began when Astros owner Jim Crane arrived in a helicopter that landed on Field 5 at Osceola County Stadium a little before 8 a.m. ET, which created somewhat of a stir among some of the players. J.D. Martinez sent out a Tweet: “Mr Crane is in the building,” with a picture of the aircraft.

Saturday marked the first full-squad workout of spring, and Crane and manager Bo Porter addressed the club in an upstairs conference room prior to the workout.

“He’s special,” first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Pena said of Crane. “I had the pleasure of meeting him and having a conversation with him, and he’s definitely impressive. He’s got a great story of his own, and that’s exactly what we want to instill in this team, that everything is possible and you can grow and become better as time goes on.”

Pena, who lives nearby in Orlando, got a big bear hug from Rick Ankiel when he came in the clubhouse – a pair of veterans sharing a moment in a wide-eyed clubhouse. Pena talked about the young energy and how grateful he was to be in that atmosphere.

“It’s going to be good as far as Rick and I are concerned,” he said.

With Ankiel putting on his shoes at a nearby locker, Pena spoke loud enough to where he could be heard.

“We go way back to the point I remember standing in the batter’s box and being scared about being hit in the head,” he joked.

“That ended in a strikeout,” Ankiel woofed.

For the record, Pena never faced Ankiel in a regular-season game when Ankiel was still a pitcher.

Astros narrow search to 3-4 candidates

Astros owner Jim Crane said Tuesday the club has whittled its managerial search to three or four candidates and hopes to be able have the process wrapped up either later this week or early next week. The announcement of the hire will depend on whether the new manager is working for a playoff club.

“It will really depend on the selection we make, how quickly we announce that based upon where the teams are and the candidates we’re talking to,” Crane said. “If they’re in the playoffs, we might have to wait until the playoffs are over.”

Crane said the club has a good feeling about “a couple of candidates,” but said the team is still checking backgrounds and references. He didn’t rule out the idea of any remaining potential candidates having another interview with management.

“We got a very good look at a lot of different people and we learned a lot through the process,” Crane said. “We think the group we have left, any one of them will be a good manager.”

Among the candidate who have interviewed and are still in the hunt are Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco.

“I’m confident we’re going to get a great manager,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “There’s a lot of excellent baseball people that are ready to help the organization. … It’s splitting hairs which one is better than the other. Really, it’s about which one is a better fit for the organization at this point in time given where we’re going.”

Crane tours Mets spring facility

Astros owner Jim Crane made another pass through Florida on Saturday, arriving at Osceola County Stadium and taking in batting practice with some of his partners.

Earlier in the day, Crane toured the Mets’ Spring Training facility in Port St. Lucie, which is down the road from his Floridian Golf Club. Crane has previously visited the Spring Training sites of the Yankees in Tampa and the Cardinals and Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.

The Astros are under contract with Osceola County Stadium through 2015.

“As we said last time, we’re kind of looking at all the different spots and we had time to go there this morning and take a tour of the field and look at their facilities,” he said. “Certainly, they’re interested in another team there, but we’ve still got a deal here for quite some time so we’re just kind of learning. We’ll probably go out to Phoenix this week and check out a couple of spots and look at a few more spots in Florida.”

Crane hasn’t said the Astros will move their Spring Training facility when their lease in Kissimmee expires, but the state of Florida is actively trying to keep its 15 teams in the Grapefruit League and prevent any further defections to the Cactus League in Arizona.

“The state of Florida wants to keep everybody here,” he said. “We’ve got to do what’s best for us, and certainly this is a nice facility.”

As far as the upcoming season goes, Crane said Friday’s Opening Day game against the Rockies is approaching a sellout.

“We’re trying to sell out the opening game,” he said. “We’re getting close. We might make it. We’re working hard at it.”

Meanwhile, Crane and the Astros have about a month to submit new uniform designs to Major League Baseball. The Astros have had focus groups with fans to gauge new uniform designs, and it certainly appears the club will have a new look when it begins play in the American League in 2013.

“We’ve got another pass next week and we’ll be making some decisions pretty quick,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good input from the fans in the focus group, but also including some of the players and the guy that washes the uniforms. That’s very important. You’ve got to make sure the uniforms won’t break down on you.

“We’re leaning very heavily towards it and I’d be surprised if we didn’t [change].”

Astros board meets, tours Kissimmee

Astros owner Jim Crane took the team’s board of directors on a tour of the team’s facility at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday morning. The board held a meeting Monday night in Orlando, where manager Brad Mills and general manager Jeff Luhnow gave updates on the club and went over finances.

Eight of the investors and Crane threw out the ceremonial first pitches prior to the game against the Cardinals.

The board of directors, which is made up of principal investors, will vote on major decisions, but not be involved in day-to-day operations of the club.

“We’ll try to create an atmosphere where they can participate in an owner’s suite when we get home and get some special perks,” Crane said. “They’re over major decisions, like the budget, and we’d have to get some approval from them. Other than that, [president and CEO] George [Postolos] and Jeff will make the day-to-day decisions.”

Crane said he expected the Astros’ Opening Day payroll to be around $60 million when the season begins April 6 against the Rockies.

“We’ll see what happens as the season moves on and whether Jeff makes any trades and what adjustments we might have to make throughout the season, depending on how things progress,” Crane said. “I think we’ll open [the season] where we’re at now.”

Crane has been in and out of spring camp for the past month and said he plans to take at least a couple of more visits to Florida. Earlier in the month, he traveled with the Astros to Tampa to take in a game at the Yankees’ Steinbrenner Field, and he said he’d like to tour a couple of other facilities before spring camp ends.

“We’re getting close [to the start of the season],” he said. “We’re getting excited and ready for Opening Day.”

Crane will meet with some fan focus groups this week in Houston to go over some designs for the team’s new uniforms, which are expected to debut next year when the Astros move to the American League. The Astros have to have a design submitted to Major League Baseball by May 1. He’s even sought input from some former players, like Jeff Bagwell.

“We want it to be a long term uniform that will show well and fans will like it,” he said.

Lee reports as full squad hits the field

After listening to speeches from owner Jim Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills, 63 Astros players hit the field for the first full-squad workout of the spring. The Astros have a week to get up to speed before opening Grapefruit League play Saturday against the Washington Nationals.

Among those on the field for the first time Sunday was Carlos Lee, who’s in the final year of his six-year, $100-million contract and likely his final season in Houston

Lee, 35, batted .275 with 18 homers and 94 RBIs in 155 games last year, and he hasn’t put up the same kind of numbers the last two seasons as did during his first three years in Houston when he hit .306 and averaged 29 homers and 107 RBIs.

“Last year, I started really slow, but I kind of figured it out and worked hard on my hitting and had a great second half,” he said. “I did what I’m capable of doing. Hopefully we take off in the same condition I was last year hitting the ball like I normally do.”

Crane made news when he told reporters the Astros would likely change uniforms next year.

Here is the day in photos, with an emphasis in smiles and autographs:

Astros owner Jim Crane and principal owner Bill Morgan stroll the back fields.

Jim Crane addresses reporters, saying team will likely change uniforms.

Juan Abreu rocks and fires in the bullpen.

Fernando Rodriguez signs autographs, chats with fans.

Jose Altuve, Travis Buck and Humberto Quintero await facing live pitching.

Travis Buck and Minor League baserunning coordinator Milt Thompson share a laugh.

J.D. Martinez laughs at the batting cage.

Kyle Weiland throws a round of living batting practice.

Aneury Rodriguez signs autographs.

A line of fans await Zach Duke's signature.

Sergio Escalona throws in the bullpen with Doug Brocail watching.

Crane says uniform change likely

Astros owner Jim Crane, who talked to the team prior to its first full-squad workout on Sunday morning at Osceola County Stadium, told reporters he’s leaning heavily towards an overhaul of the team’s uniforms in conjunction with the move to the American League in 2013.

Major League Baseball has been working with the Astros on a new uniform design, and Crane said he wants to get his staff and some of the fans involved in helping with the design. Crane said the team has to have everything submitted to baseball by May 1, but nothing will be made public until after the season.

“We can’t really come out with a uniform until the season is over,” Crane said. “All that – the branding and the logo – has to be submitted, and once we get all that through them we’ll follow the guidelines and rules. You probably won’t see anything until after the season.”

The Astros, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, haven’t had a major uniform overhaul since moving to what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000. The Astros will switch to the AL next year, which Crane says will make good timing for a uniform switch.

“Our feel on it is this is going to be a great year with the transition, and we’re going to have a lot of fun seeing some of the old team and some of the new teams again,” Crane said. “We’ll be the only team you can see every team in baseball the next two years. If change is going to be made, certainly next year, going to the American League, is going to be our transition, and we’re leaning heavily that way.”

Meanwhile, all 63 players hit the field Sunday under light drizzle and chilly temperatures. Today is the first day of live batting practice, and undoubtedly the hitters will be far behind the pitchers, who have been in camp for a week. Here are some morning photos:

Astros owner Jim Crane talks with reporters.

Carlos Lee hits the field for the first time.

Here's our first look of top prospect Jonathan Singleton in an Astros uniform.

Here's Jose Altuve, by request.

Jim Crane walks with minority owner Bill Morgan.

Brad Mills throws a ball during fielding drills.

Spring Training is underway for the Astros

The Astros officially kicked off their new era under new management Monday when pitchers and catchers took the field at Osceola County Stadium for the first workout of Spring Training. Astros manager Brad Mills said everything went as smoothly as could have been expected, as 28 pitchers and seven catchers put in a few hours of work for the first time as a group.

Perhaps the best news for the Astros as they hit the field was that everyone is healthy, including catcher Jason Castro and Brandon Lyon. Castro missed all of last year and Lyon sat out most of the year following surgery.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see the guys in great shape,” Mills said. “The guys did a lot of things this off-season [to stay in shape]. With a lot of new players and a lot of new staff, it was good. I thought they did a good job. Yeah, there are some things they have to tighten up a little bit, but for the most part I thought it was real good.”

The pitchers are broken into six groups, with three groups throwing in the bullpen each day. Among those getting on the mound Monday were J.A. Happ, Jordan Lyles, Brett Myers, Zach Duke, Wesley Wright and Henry Sosa.

The position players won’t work out as a group until Sunday. Among those who showed up at camp Monday were Jordan Schafer, Jose Altuve, Chris Johnson, Jed Lowrie, Jimmy Paredes, Brett Wallace, Brian Bogusevic, Jack Cust, Jake Goebbert, J.D. Martinez, J.B. Shuck and George Springer.

For a complete rundown of the day’s news, click here.

For a video package with interviews with Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow and Brad Mills, click here.

Here is Day 1 in pictures:

Astros manager Brad Mills puts on his sunglasses as he emerges from the clubhouse for the first workout of spring.

Pitcher Paul Clemens, acquired from the Braves in the Michael Bourn deal, stretches.

Astros manager Brad Mills talks to one of his coaches.

Astros pitcher Bud Norris awaits Monday's first stretch.

Astros manager Brad Mills talks with the media prior to the workout.

Astros manager Brad Mills address a group of pitchers.

Astros catcher Jason Castro gets put through a drill.

Jordan Lyles fires a pitch to Humberto Quintero. Can you spot the ball?

Astros owner Jim Crane does an interview.

Astros owner Jim Crane talks with manager Brad Mills prior to Monday's workout.