Results tagged ‘ manager ’
Astros manager Bo Porter met with the media on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. Here’s the transcript:
Q. Bo, what did you learn your first year as a manager? You’ve got your second year coming up, what did you learn as a manager and things you may do differently going into year two?
BO PORTER: I tell you, the first thing I learned is I have a whole lot more patience than I thought I had. It’s one of those things obviously you go into a situation, it’s your first year, and I’m a firm believer that we learned through all of our experiences the importance of the back end of your bullpen, the importance, even when you look at the number of outs we made on bases, the importance of how those outs kind of impact the later portion of your game.
I think from a staff standpoint, we will address a lot of these situations a little bit differently in spring training to help out with players understanding the magnitude as great as we understand the magnitude.
Collectively we can look at our 2013 season, and we will not spend a lot of time talking about 2013 as a whole, just because I want to put that season behind us and really look forward to the bright future that we have for the Houston Astros organization.
Q. How was it communicating with players and trying to keep them from not getting down in August and September as the losses are piling up?
BO PORTER: I tell you, that was a collective job. Not just myself, but the staff. I think a lot of our players from Jason Castro to Jose Altuve, a lot of those guys started to really assert themselves from a leadership standpoint.
We had a lot of young guys. Well, we have a team full of young guys, but we had even younger guys that came up in the latter part of the year, and some of those guys that had been there the whole year took it upon themselves to really make sure that the morale of the team and energy stayed the course, and our staff basically helped with that process as well.
Q. What can we expect from Jose Altuve?
BO PORTER: I think you’re going to get what Jose will bring to the table each and every day. He is one of those guys that I always have to defend this here question because I get asked about it. Is he going to leadoff, bat second or third? Jose Altuve is the true definition of a baseball player. He’s going to play his heart out each and every day. He’s a guy that can handle the bat. He hits good pitching. I really believe that even with the success which he’s had already that his best years are yet to come.
Q. Did you find you were doing things differently or your team might have changed along the way? Even preparing for a series or advanced meetings or something, what time you do this during the day?
BO PORTER: Well, first of all, because I’m not a superstitious person, I’m not one of those that feels like you need to do something at a certain time because you won that game or lost that game or you shouldn’t do this.
Our preparation, pretty much as far as the staff goes, we meet the first game of every series to go over the opposing team. Doing that meeting, it’s more taking all of our advanced information that we receive and condensing it down to a point where making the decision of exactly what it is we’re going to basically give to the players.
Then as the series go along, there may be different things that happen throughout the course of one game to the next that you may grab an individual and say, listen, this happened last night, and let’s make sure we are aware of this situation if it happens again.
Q. What are you hearing about Alex White, and will he be ready for spring training and battling for the rotation in the bullpen?
BO PORTER: I tell you, Alex White has made tremendous improvement. All indications lead toward him being ready in spring training, to be in competition for either one of those roles. He was in competition last year. It was unfortunate he suffered the injury which he suffered. But I believe that our medical staff has done a tremendous job of getting him back to the point where he can be able to come into spring training and he should be healthy and compete for one of the roster spots. Whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen.
Q. Bo, talk about the winter that JD Martinez is having. And do you see him having more of an impact like he did in his rookie year?
BO PORTER: I tell you, we were extremely happy that we were able to retain JD Martinez. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he missed a lot of time due to injuries. To JD Martinez’ credit, he was adamant about going to winter ball. He wanted to go to winter ball because he felt like he missed some many at‑bats that he wanted to not only prove to the organization but also prove to himself that he could be the quality of player which he was his rookie year.
And the success in which he’s having in winter ball, is it shocking to us? No, it’s not shocking to us because we believe this guy can be an impact bat in a Major League lineup. It’s good to see him figure things out. He’s healthy now. We’re really excited to get him back into spring training and believe he can have an impact on our ballclub in 2014.
Q. My understanding is JD made an adjustment to his swing. What can you tell us about that? When did it happen and how did it evolve?
BO PORTER: That maturation started to happen throughout the course of the year. John Mallee, our hitting coach, looked at some mechanical things that he felt would help JD use his power better, and they started to tweak his swing a little bit. His approach was understanding how to get inside his legs a little bit more, take a little bit of his arm out of his swing. And JD was very receptive to it.
I think, again, that played a huge factor in him making the decision to go play winter ball. Because when you start to change your swing from a mechanical standpoint and now you get hurt and miss those at‑bats, you’re feeling good with the changes but now you’re not able to play. He was eager to put this here to test. Going down to winter ball has afforded him that opportunity and put him in a position where he’ll be coming into spring training batting for a job.
Q. Another guy that’s having some success in winter ball is Jonathan Singleton. What type of improvements are you looking to see out of him this season?
BO PORTER: I tell you, it’s good to get Jonathan back and have him the full year. He had the setback last year as far as the suspension goes. He’s a very talented young man. He’s a guy that obviously is one of our top prospects, and we see him being part of our organization for many years to come. Again, he is a guy that missed a considerable amount of time, and going to winter ball allowed him to make up for those at‑bats and he’ll come into spring training with an opportunity to be able to win a spot on our team.
Q. One of the keywords this spring will be competition. What is that competition going to be like throughout?
BO PORTER: Last year when you look at our ballclub coming into spring training, and I was asked this question, all I said was Jose Altuve is going to play second base. That competition is a little different this year. I mean, we have a third baseman in Matt Dominguez. We have a shortstop in Jonathan Villar. We have a catcher in Jason Castro. And Robbie Grossman has proven that he has the capabilities of being an everyday player. We traded for Dexter.
So a lot of our spots that were open last year, we have players that have basically taken the bull by the horn and established themselves in those positions. But there are still a lot of positions where competition will exist, and there will be competition within our ballclub just to improve on what it is we did last year.
Q. How is it to get Springer’s name in the lineup? Do you expect he’ll have to see time in right field because Fowler is going to play some center, and Springer might have to branch out and play some right?
BO PORTER: The benefit when you have guys that are extremely athletic, and that is one of the areas in which Jeff and I talked about getting more athletic in the outfield, I think it definitely saves you runs. It may go unnoticed sometimes from a standpoint, from a fan standpoint of if you have three guys in the outfield that all of have paid for playing centerfield, your defense instantly gets better. So having George Springer, Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman, three guys that have pretty much predominantly played centerfield most of their career and now you look out there and you have Grossman in left, Springer in right, and Fowler in center, your team just got better.
Q. Could you see Fowler playing anywhere else besides center? Is there a little flexibility there?
BO PORTER: Right now, if we were to give Fowler a day off and we need to put somebody in centerfield, again, you have two options there. You have two guys who have played centerfield, which gives you flexibility as a manager.
Q. Bo, talk about (indiscernible) a lot of talent. Couple of hiccups in his first big league experience. Are you looking for him to be a little more mature coming into spring training?
BO PORTER: I think we all learn from our situations. Jonathan is an exciting player. At the same time I think that is a part of the growth that takes place with a young player of understanding limitations and understanding where you’re at in the game. I think that maturation, some of the situations that happened last year with him being pulled out of the game, and the conversations which we were able to have after those situations, I think they resonated, and I think he’ll be better for them and we’ll be better for them.
Q. Are you concerned at all from last year with the year Dexter had? Kind of had an off year last year and some injuries. Does that concern you at all?
BO PORTER: Not at all. We looked at Dexter Fowler’s full body of work, and his full body of work is definitely something to be excited about. He’s a guy that can impact the game on defense. He can impact the game in the batter’s box. He can impact the game on the base path. He has leadership qualities. He’s embraced coming into a ballclub where he becomes one of the senior spokesmen. So we’re excited to have Dexter and believe that he’s going to be a good addition to our ballclub.
Q. You don’t pay a lot of attention to your record, but what would qualify for you as a successful 2014 based on you’re still pretty early in your rebuilding process?
BO PORTER: For me, you have one winner and 29 losers. At the end of the day, that’s pretty much what it comes down to.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series and 29 other teams came up short. So when I can sit here after we won the World Series, that is when you’ll hear me say I’m satisfied. Until then, I’m not going to be satisfied.
Q. I guess what steps do you want to take forward. Last year was about evaluating young kids. You got to look at a bunch. You’re adding veterans. Explain kind of where you are as you guys, it seems like you need to take that step forward and win more games.
BO PORTER: We definitely want to win more games. But to take that step forward, we had to evaluate our core pieces and figure out, okay, what pieces can we add to this core to make us a better baseball team? I think we’ve taken the necessary steps to do that. Because we have more established players and we’ve added veteran players to that core group, you look at our roster, and we overall have a better group of talented players. That’s going to equate to more wins on the baseball field.
Q. What is it for Carter to cut down on the strikeouts? Did you see anything that leads you to believe he’ll be able to make those adjustments?
BO PORTER: I believe he’ll be able to cut down on them because this year was the first year Cris Carter had an opportunity to play every day. You look at his Major League career, even the at‑bats which he received, they were platoon at‑bats where‑‑ you know, a lot of times when you’re platooning and a guy hits 16 home runs in a platoon and he’s only facing lefties, very easily you could say, wow, if this guy played every day and he’s only going to hit 30 home runs, the numbers are going to double. Well, what happens in that scenario is you take away the aspect that he’s now facing righties, and the mental strain that comes with the days in which he goes 0‑4 with three strikeouts against a righty. Then the next day he faces a lefty in which you’re saying to yourself, okay, this is the guy he’s really going to do good against. But the mental strain that that has on you basically affects a guy that you probably should hit well. I think that mental maturity is going to help Cris Carter. The fact that he’s coming into his second year where he’s going to play every day.
A lot of times even I would get the question from the media looking at his number of strikeouts, is he going to continue to play? Is he going to continue to play? This was not a one‑year tryout for Cris Carter. We feel like if we really hit it on this guy, we have a guy that’s going to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 every year. And taking him out of the lineup last year would not bode well for what it is we believe the steps he’s going to take next year.
So giving him that entire year, I guess to answer your question, I believe he’s going to be a stronger player from a mental standpoint and that is going to cut down on strikeouts.
Q. What does Scott Feldman bring to the rotation?
BO PORTER: I tell you, what he brings is a veteran presence. A guy who has been there and done it. He’s been a successful pitcher in the American League West. He’s pitched in the pennant race. Again, he’s a veteran guy that I think will be very beneficial for our young guys. We’ve been very careful throughout the time in which I’ve been here. It’s something that I’ve always talked to Jeff about, about the veterans in which we add. Because you have such a young group of talented players, we want to make sure that we’re adding quality guys that are going to help us on the field but also help us off the field. Scott Feldman, you talk to all the people in which he’s had the opportunity to work with, I mean, they rave about his work ethic, his preparation. That there is something that we believe is going to rub off on our young players as well.
Q. Did you find your young starters got a little down over some of the blown lead that’s you had? I mean, you had a young rotation and weren’t able to hold the leads. Did you find that weighed on any of the guys? They would pitch well six, seven, eight innings and not get the wins they deserved?
BO PORTER: That’s what team is all about. Man to man, those guys know that every man that comes out of that bullpen, he’s going to give them maximum effort. It just so happened we got the short end of the stick quite often last year with the guys we had coming out of there. But I felt like each and every last one of those guys, the next time you gave them the ball, the effort was there, the preparation was there.
Again, we came into this off‑season knowing that that was an area that if we shored up that area of our ballclub, our starting pitchers, the young guys that we brought up from Oberholtzer to Cosart, the starters that Clemens had late in the season, when Peacock returned back from the minor leagues, Chia Lo had a tremendous year. So we looked and we said, if we shore up this portion of our team, obviously, the record will be better.
Q. With Brent Strom coming in from another organization, will there be any changes to pitching as far as philosophy and throwing programs?
BO PORTER: Well, I tell you, the fact that Jeff and Brent spent quite a bit of time in St. Louis together, our philosophy is pretty much identical to the philosophy they had in St. Louis already. So Brent is a great addition to our staff. Him and I have had many conversations from the moment he’s been drafted. He’s been in and out of Houston a couple times. So I believe that transition will be smooth.
Q. How much of the rotation is set in your mind? How many spots do you think going into the spring open for guys to win?
BO PORTER: I tell you, you look at the success in which our young guys had last year. Chai Lo had great success, Oberholtzer had great success. Cosart was pretty dominant. Scott Feldman, obviously, we brought him in to put him at the front of our rotation. You look at a guy like Lucas Harrell, he’s a wildcard. He’s a guy that in 2012 he was arguably our best pitcher. Last year was obviously a step back for him. But I believe he’s going to come into spring training and be eager to reestablish himself as a rotation guy. So we have quality depth. You look at the season in which Peacock put together. And those guys would battle it out for those type five spots and you never know what happens in the bullpen as well.
Q. Do you see value in adding a first baseman? Do you see yourself another option at first base going into the season?
BO PORTER: There are still some moves we may make. We’re always looking to upgrade our roster. You look at the first base position, another bullpen arm. Maybe another starter. It’s areas that we would definitely look at to improve from the free agent market, to the trade market, and we’ll just see what happens.
Q. Do you see what kind of impact do you see Jordan Lyles making with Colorado?
BO PORTER: I tell you, it’s always ‑‑ for me, I don’t think you want to talk about a traded player to someplace else. Jordan Lyles was tremendous for us. He had great moments in which we felt like he had an opportunity to really be a front of the rotation guy. He had great stuff, great make‑up, an extremely hard worker, and we really wish him well in Colorado.
Q. Can you touch on home plate collision and MLB trying to change the rules of it?
BO PORTER: I would say anything that goes with the measure of safety in our ballgame, the players are our number one commodity, and we want to do everything we can to keep them healthy. As long as whatever rules we’re going to put in place are going to be put in place obviously to protect the players, I am all for any ruling that’s going to protect the player.
Q. Last year was your first long look at the American League West. What was your impression of the division overall, and what are your thoughts about some of the moves this off‑season and what the division might look like next season?
BO PORTER: I tell you, looking at some of the moves, I just found out the Mariners not only added Cano earlier in the week, but they added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. So you look at the moves that the Oakland A’s made, and the Texas Rangers adding Prince Fielder. I believe that our ballclub is going to be much improved as well. The Anaheim Angels are making moves, some of the arms which they got back in their trades is looking to be a pretty competitive division. You look throughout the American League, Cleveland was much improved. Detroit, obviously their ballclub.
So it’s going to be a tough league. The American League West is going to be even tougher.
Q. Having said that about the American League West, is there any concern to keep up with the Jones or do you just want to stay with the process right now?
BO PORTER: Our process and our plan, we will not get off course. We believe that we have a plan in place that will allow the Houston Astros to not be successful just for one year, but be successful for a good ten‑year run with the players which we have coming.
But at the same time, as was evident last week, we traded away two young players to acquire a young player. So if the right situation presents itself to us to make our ballclub better, and even if it’s not a part of the process or a part of the plan, at that time I think we’ll be able to look at that situation and make a good decision on whether or not it’s a good move for us.
Q. If Mark Appel is your best pitcher or one of your best five pitchers in spring training, is he on the team or does he definitely need minor league innings?
BO PORTER: It all depends. You know, when you have a guy like a Mark Appel who is arguably a great talent, as an organization, we always talk about taking the best 25 guys.
As we sit here today, would I say that Mark Appel would be on our roster come opening day next year? That remains to be seen. But as far as Mark Appel’s talent, I think the player will always tell you when they’re ready to join a big league ballclub.
Q. So with your thoughts on development, you’re not a believer in a minimum number of innings in the minor leagues?
BO PORTER: I think that’s a case‑by‑case scenario. I don’t think you can etch in stone player A had 250 innings, player B needs 250 innings or player A had 1500 at‑bats and player B needs 1500 at‑bats. I think it’s a case‑by‑case situation. You look at the player, age has something to do with it. Was it a high school player? College player? All of those dynamics go into that decision making.
Q. What about Delino DeShields and his progress in the farm system for you guys?
BO PORTER: He made a really good transition from second base to centerfield. Actually he makes it look pretty natural out there in the outfield. I had an opportunity to come out to the fall league and spend four days out here, watch him play centerfield. His transition was great. He went and got the ball really easy. I think that as this transition takes place, I think it’s going to help him move a little bit faster because he can really use his skill sets in the outfield.
Q. You touched on recruiting, but how much time are you spending this winter just texting, calling or emailing potential guys that you might want to bring in here?
BO PORTER: You’re saying free agents?
BO PORTER: It all depends. We go through a pretty strenuous process of once we decide that we’re going to reach out to a player. When we engage and it gets to the point where, obviously, we feel like we’re close as far as their side and our side, I definitely have reached out to all of those players. Because you want to be able to, one, give them an overview of where we’re at as an organization. You want to basically explain to them how they fit in the organization. And then answer any questions that they may have. A lot of times when you’re talking free agents, you may feel like you’re interviewing them, but they’re interviewing you as.
Q. What are the biggest questions they have about the Houston Astros?
BO PORTER: They look at the losses. They want to know what the plan is to get the team back into contention, and how they fit into that plan. It’s obvious, you look at our minor league system, the teams in the playoffs, and the number of top prospects that we have, they’re smart enough to know that this organization has a lot of prospects, okay. They’re going to be good. Am I going to be around when they’re good? What is the plan?
I think that myself and Jeff are able to answer those questions for all of those guys. You look at Scott Feldman, that’s why he agreed to three years to come to the Houston Astros, because he felt completely confident in the plan which we have in place to basically build a winner consistently.
Q. Not asking if you set your lineup card or anything. But where do you anticipate hitting Dexter Fowler in that lineup?
BO PORTER: Dexter Fowler leading off, Altuve second, Castro third. Get back to me with the rest of it.
Q. You’ve got two more than you did this time last year.
BO PORTER: You see what I’m saying? We’re getting much better. I’m telling you (laughing). Last year all I had was Altuve playing second, and I didn’t even know if he was going to lead off and hit second. So now we have Fowler leading off, we have Altuve hitting second, and we have Castro hitting third. And I know all three I’m going to play. And Dominguez is going to play third.
Q. Is that a regular thing? I didn’t see a lot of the games last year. Do you stay with the same lineup as much as you can? Would you have flip‑flopped two and three once in a while?
BO PORTER: How many players we have last year? 60?
BO PORTER: Impossible to stay with the number of players that we have.
Q. But your best hitter hit second or are there certain times that lefty‑righty match‑ups, maybe you’d want Castro two, Altuve three, and moving guys around like that.
BO PORTER: I tell you, I like roster continuity. But a lot of times where you don’t have established players, and from a manager’s standpoint, I’m a firm believer that our number one job, my number one job as a manager is to put every player in the best position I can put them in to be successful. So if moving a guy is going to help his skill sets, I’m all for doing it. At the same time I think that there is some strength that comes with lineup continuity. But the players, you have to have the players in order to be able to have lineup continuity.
Q. Can you see Castro becoming really an offensive threat from the catching position or one of the top hitting catchers in the league?
BO PORTER: You look at his overall body of work last year, and he turned himself into an All‑Star catcher. I said this last year when I took the job. One of my biggest goals was to get through the season, and keep Jason Castro healthy. I felt like when I looked at his video from early on throughout the injuries, he did not have his legs underneath him. It affected the way he called the games. It affected the way he blocked the ball. It affected him in the batter’s box because he just didn’t have his legs underneath him to drive the ball.
To his credit, to the training staff’s credit, and our strength and conditioning group, he got himself in the best shape of his life. He got his legs underneath him. I think last year we saw the real Jason Castro. I think he’s only going to get better as time goes on.
Q. He’s healthy? You expect he’ll come to camp with the knees being okay?
BO PORTER: Yes, he’s completely healthy. He got a degree from Stanford. Smartest guy on the team. So he’ll be showing back up as a Stanford graduate. I actually text him today. It’s outstanding. Huge accomplishment.
Q. Smarter than the manager?
BO PORTER: Yes, of course. He graduated from Stanford. I went to Iowa.
Q. We probably shouldn’t print that.
BO PORTER: I respect Stanford. It’s a great institution.
Astros manager Bo Porter, who spent the previous two years as third base coach of the Nationals, was handing out handshakes and hugs Tuesday in his return to Space Coast Stadium — the Spring Training site of the Nationals — as manager of the Astros.
“It’s great,” Porter said. “I have a lot of friends over here, a lot of great relationships. It’s not like we’re being reunited. We keep in contact constantly and leading up to today. It’s great to be back and see a lot of these guys and they’ve got a good thing going on. It’s a good ballclub and they’ve got a chance to do something special.”
Porter took time at the batting cage to talk with several players and Nationals manager Davey Johnson, whom he considers one of his mentors. He also revealed he’s part of a book club with several players on the Nationals that stays in contact via email. In fact, Porter said the book club, which focuses on inspirational work, is more than 700 strong.
Porter, 40, was met by about 12 reporters from the Washington area and was asked if the chance to be a manager in the Major Leagues was everything he could have imagined.
“The energy has been great, the attention to detail has been great,” he said. “We’ve fallen behind and come and battled and battled and you see the intensity, you see the attention to detail and it’s good to see from a staff standpoint.”
Much more on Porter’s return to Viera, Fla., later.
Here’s the Astros lineup:
SS Tyler Greene
2B Jose Altuve
LF Chris Carter
1B Brett Wallace
CF Justin Maxwell
RF J.D. Martinez
C Carlos Corporan
3B Matt Dominguez
DH Marwin Gonzalez
RHP Lucas Harrell (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
Astros manager Bo Porter, who has officially taken control of the club following the elimination of the Nationals from the playoffs on Friday night, was at Minute Maid Park on Monday for a meeting with general manager Jeff Luhnow.
The top priority for Porter and Luhnow is finalizing the Major League coaching staff, something Luhnow said they would like have done in the next 10-14 days.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Luhnow said.
The Astros’ current coaching staff consists of bench coach Joe Pettini, hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Doug Brocail, third-base coach Dave Clark, first-base coach Dan Radison and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson. Van Burkleo and Radison took over in August when manager Brad Mills, hitting coach Mike Barnett and first-base coach Bobby Meacham were let go.
Pettini, who came to the Astros after 10 years as the Cardinals bench coach, and Brocail both said last month they would like to return next year, but their fate remains up in the air. Tony DeFrancesco, who served as interim manager for the final 41 games, could also return to the field staff in some capacity.
“It was fun with this young club,” Pettini said last month. “It wasn’t so much fun losing so many as we have, but it’s always fun working with younger guys and seeing guys develop. Some guys turn into everyday players and some guys might not make it or stay here. That’s the growing pains in the organization.
“Yeah, I would [like to stay]. I’m 57 years old and have 11 years as a coach at the big league level and a few as a player, and I’m not quite ready to retire yet. I’d like to do it a few more years.”
Brocail, 45, put in a full season as pitching coach in 2012 after taking over midway through the 2011 seasons when Brad Arnsberg was let go.
“Of course, I’d love to be back,” he said last month. “I love this job, but we have a lot of work to do. I’d like to see it through. I don’t know what their thoughts are. Nobody’s talked about it, but if they want to sit down and talk, I’d love to be back. We all know we have a ton of work to do, we all know there’s a plan in place, and that plan needs to be followed to a T, and I hope I’m the guy and they have confidence in me.”
Porter, 40, spent the previous two seasons as third-base coach for the Nationals and is inheriting an Astros team that has lost 213 games in the past two seasons. Luhnow said Porter will meet with the media at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.
Tony DeFrancesco, who was passed over for the full-time managerial job, said Friday he’s glad to get the opportunity to manage the team for the final 41 games of season and hopes to be able to remain on the staff of incoming manager Bo Porter.
“I’m very proud of being an Astro manager and taking over the team,” he said. “I thought we turned it around a little bit. Our goal right now is to get to .500 for the month of September (Astros were 11-13 in September entering Friday).”
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow informed DeFrancesco of the club’s decision following Wednesday night’s game.
DeFrancesco was one of four finalists for the job, which eventually went to Porter. He’s the third base coach for the Nationals and will join the Astros when Washington’s playoff run is over. DeFrancesco, who began this year managing at Triple-A Oklahoma City, will remain in the organization.
“They made the right choice,” DeFrancesco said. “Bo was the guy they wanted and there was no regrets on my part. No regrets on Jeff when he told me the other day that they were going to go with Bo. I’m real happy just to get an opportunity and now hopefully I’m going to remain in the organization at some point – we’re not sure what it is yet.”
DeFrancesco, who has a 1,235-1,088 career record as a manager in the Minor Leagues, would like to be on Porter’s staff. It’s unclear which members of the current coaching staff are going to remain.
“I would love to stay at the Major League level on Bo’s staff and that’s up to [owner] Jim [Crane] and Jeff and Bo to decide if that’s something available,” he said. “I think I do have the option of going back to Oklahoma City and doing the Triple-A team again to manage that. But there might be other avenues down the road for me if it’s somewhere in the front office or in player development or a special assistant or something that route, maybe that’s a direction I could go.”
The Astros on Thursday named Washington Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter as their 17th manager. Porter, 40, will remain with the Nationals until the playoffs are over and will then be charged with taking over an Astros team that will be coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons.
Porter held a question-and-answer session with the Houston media:
Q: Can you talk about what it means to get the job?
A: “I’m completely honored. It starts with Jim Crane at the top. He’s put together a great leadership team and am I just honored to be a part of that leadership team. When you look at the success in the organization, you have continuity from the top all the way down to the bottom. They did a thorough search and did a great job of doing their due diligence and going through the process, and I’m just honored that I’m the one they decided and were all in agreement I was the man for the job.”
Q: What excites you most about being a part of this team?
A: “What excites me the most is it’s a young group, but at the same time it’s a very talented group. Jeff Luhnow and his staff from the day in which he took over the organization, he has done a great job of surrounding himself with quality people off the field as well as on the field. The talent pool is very good and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing you here in Houston?
A: “I think the biggest challenge would be basically getting everybody on board with the direction and the vision the leadership group has put together. Jim Crane has made it very clear his goal is to build an organization that will have sustained excellence, and in order to do that you have to build from within your organization and start with the core players. It’s getting everyone on the same wave length, and I think we are all in agreement that message has already started to be delivered and we will continue to deliver that message throughout the whole organization.”
Q: There’s only 30 of these jobs. When did it hit you that you’ve got one of them now, or has it hit you?
A: “It actually hit me yesterday [Wednesday]. I talked to my wife [Stacie] after I finished meeting with Jim, George [Postolos] and Jeff and this is very special for her because my wife is from Houston, she grew up on the southwest side of Houston, she’s a Westbury High School graduate. So it’s a little bit, I guess you could say, more of a chill down her spine. I get to come home, we get to be at home, and at the same time she understands the dynamics of baseball and all that comes with the job because she’s been on this journey with me the entire time. To hear her respond and the joy in her voice really hit home of just how exciting this time is.”
Q: What have you learned from the Nationals experience that translates to what you will be having to do with the Astros?
A: “I think the biggest thing is you look around the diamond at the team we put out there every night and you look at Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detweiler, Bryce Harper, you have Drew Storen in the bullpen and Craig Stammen – you look at that and you say to yourself, ‘All those guys are homegrown.’ If you are able to grow your own talent and they get to the big leagues and they become core players, they’re level of commitment to the overall excellence of the organization runs a little bit deeper than players that may come from the outside or they come here from different avenues into your organization. That’s the goal and the commitment of the organization from the top down, that’s one of the things that driven me to this job. When I sat around and talked with the leadership group, our vision and our plan was dead on. We were on the same page.”
Q: What then will constitute success for you? Ia it wins, losses, or is it a measure of improvement within the organization?
A: “I think the biggest thing is when you start talking about the number of games you’re going to win and you’re going to lose, I tend to focus more on the process, and if you take care of the process, the desired results, you’ll get it much more often. When I speak to the team and we’re talking about… Everybody wants to win a game, so at the end of the day if you take care of the process you will [get there]. From the standpoint from the offseason program, leading into spring Training, all of our conversations from the team, from the players, is let’s worry about the things we can control. And we can control the process.”
Q: What have you learned from other managers with whom you worked, or if you could go back to Hayden Fry at Iowa [former football coach]?
A: “I’ve been blessed to be around some tremendous leaders. You speak about Hayden Fry. He is one of the people that had a huge impact on my life. Early on, I was 17 years old and coming out of high school, and had the fortune of playing baseball and football at the University of Iowa. Coach Fry, when it comes to attention to detail, he takes it to the Nth degree. That is something that I learned at the University of Iowa and has stayed with me throughout my playing days and definitely through my coaching days. Our job as a coach or as a leader is basically put our players in a position to be successful, to help them play to their potential. In order to do that you have to be prepared and you have to be able to give them the information that arms them to play at a fast speed and to have an opportunity to be success. The time I’ve spent with all the managers I’ve been around, from Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson… Riggleman runs a great ballgame, and I had the fortune to spend some time with him as a player. He was my manager in Chicago and got some time to spend with him as the third base coach in Washington when he was the manager. Davey Johnson has done a great job here and the way he communicates with players, it’s something that they could be linked to, the players feeling a connection you have to have to a player that allows a player to play at a high level. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good people. It would be a long list if I sat here and had to name everyone, but I’m one of those people that try to learn from every situation, good or bad, so I would say from the good ones I learned a lot of what to do, and if I found myself in a situation where it was something I didn’t think I would do, you learn from that situation as well.”
Q: How weird is thing going to be for you having this job and still working for the Nationals and trying to win a World Series with them?
A: “One of the great things about this whole process is that everybody was going forward with the overall objective here. We’re trying to be as courteous as possible and ask as any many questions and speak to as many people as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to lose sight of a major goal of this organization that I’m currently working with, the Washington Nationals. We set out in Spring Training and that goal we feel is attainable. We have a chance and out of respect to what our team is doing here, I am going to take as many questions as I can today, but after today when I get to the ballpark, my immediate focus goes back to the job at hand, and that is to do everything I can to be the last team standing to win a World Series championship.”
Q: Some people say you bring a football mentality to baseball? Do you agree with that, and what does that mean?
A: “Well, I think people that know my style, I guess intensity is a word that we use. I’m a passionate person. I’m passionate about going about my work in the right way, and I think that would be a reflection of our ballclub. When you want to do so something and you want to do it well, you need to do it with enthusiasm. And that’s something I’ve always believed in. I think enthusiasm is contagious. I think when you have those kinds of players on your ballclub, a player that may not project the same level of enthusiasm as the next person, that’s something as a team when you see an effort that your fellow teammates are putting out, it kind of makes you go to another level. When they look at me, I want them to see that energy, that intensity , that passion. It gives them a sense of this is how the game is supposed to be played and this is how we’re going to play it.”
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the move to the American League?
A: “I think the biggest thing is whenever you change leagues, just like for a player, there is a get-to-know-you phase where you’re trying to get to know the league and the league is trying to get to know you, but at the end of the day it’s baseball. Just like when you have Interleague games. The only thing that changes is when an American League team goes to a National League ballpark is that the pitcher has to hit. So my experience in baseball, being in the National League, I got to coach for many years, playing in the American League as a player, it’s baseball and you have to play the game regardless of whether you’re in the National League or the American League.”
Astros owner Jim Crane said the club hopes to wrap up its managerial search by the end of next week, but it could be a while before the team is able to announce its next manager.
Crane, who had several of his partners in his hometown on Tuesday for a board meeting, said the Astros have interviewed six candidates to become full-time manager and have two more interviews scheduled. Crane said the final two or three candidates could be brought in for another round of interviews, but some candidates have been ruled out.
“I don’t know when we’re going to announce it,” he said. “We have to figure out the schedule on that. We’re trying to get to a conclusion. It can be a little cumbersome because of the teams [that employ candidates] are in the playoff hunt and we have to be sensitive about the schedule.”
In other words, if the Astros decide to hire a manager who is currently on the staff of a team that makes the playoffs, they’ll have to wait until that team’s season is complete before announcing the choice.
“They wouldn’t come on board until everything’s over,” he said.
Astros president George Postolos and general manager Jeff Luhnow accompanied the Crane to St. Louis, but it’s not known if they were planning to conduct any interviews while here.
“We’re not talking about who we’re interviewing,” Crane said.
What is known is Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will interview for the Astros’ full-time managerial opening Wednesday in Tampa, a source told MLB.com. The Red Sox are in the middle of a series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.
Bogar will be the fifth known candidate to interview. Former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco have also interviewed.
But Bowa is out of the running after telling Fox Sports he will not be the next manager of the Astros, saying he and general manager Jeff Luhnow agreed it’s a younger man’s job.
“Jeff and I both were under the understanding that long-term it should be a younger guy — we both agreed on that,” Bowa told the web site. “The interview was really professional. Jeff has his ducks in a row. It’s just going to take some time.”
Crane said he’s pleased with the pool of candidates the Astros have interviewed.
“We’ve gotten to look at some good people,” Crane said. “We’re doing a good job of seeing what we need, who we need and what fits best for us.”
Boston Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will interview with the Astros on Wednesday at a location yet to be determined, a source told MLB.com. The Red Sox are in the middle of a series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.
Bogar will be the fifth known candidate to interview for the Astros’ full-time managerial position. Former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco have also interviewed.
Bogar interviewed with the the Astros prior to the 2010 season. The club wound up hiring Brad Mills, who was the Red Sox bench coach.
Bogar has been on the Red Sox staff since the 2009 season and is a former manager in the Astros’ Minor League system. He began his managerial career in 2004 with the rookie-league Greeneville Astros and went 41-26 and won the league title. Bogar managed in Class A Lexington the next year and was named South Atlantic Manager of the Year.
The Indians hired Bogar in 2006, and he led their Double-A Akron affiliate to the Eastern League title and was named the league’s Manager of the Year.
Larry Bowa, a long-time Major League player, manager and coach, was at Minute Maid Park on Friday to meet with general manager Jeff Luhnow at a time when the Astros are searching for a manager.
Luhnow, who picked up Bowa at the airport on Friday morning, wouldn’t confirm whether Bowa was a candidate for the full-time managerial position. Bowa, before leaving the airport, said he was meeting to “exchange baseball ideas.”
Luhnow later said in a text message to MLB.com: “Larry is here to meet with me on some baseball related matters.”
Bowa comes to Houston one day after Nationals third base coach Bo Porter was in town to interview on Thursday. Earlier in the week, the Astros interviewed Rays bench coach Dave Martinez for their managerial position, a source told MLB.com.
Martinez, 47, has been the bench coach of the Rays since 2008 and served as a Spring Training coach for manager Joe Maddon the previous two seasons. Martinez played 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with eight different teams.
As a player, Bowa was a five-time All-Star selection with the Phillies and also played for the Cubs and the Mets. A fiery personality as a player and later as a manager, he was a career .260 hitter in 16 Major League seasons and finished his career with 2,191 hits and won a World Series with the Phillies in 1980.
Bowa managed the Padres in 1987-88 and later managed the Phillies from 2001-04. He also served as a coach with the Phillies, Angels, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers. In six years as a manager, he was 418-435 (.490) with no post-season appearances.
He was named National League Manager of the Year in 2001 after the Phillies went from last place in 2000 to within two games of the division title the next year. He was dismissed with two games remaining in the 2004 season.
Bowa, 66, has been a studio analyst for the MLB Network since early in 2011.
The Astros began interviewing managerial candidates this week in an effort to find a full-time manager. Brad Mills was let go last month after nearly three years at the helm of the club, and Tony DeFrancesco has been managing the club on an interim basis.
Craig Biggio might not be ready to throw his name into the team’s managerial search, but he’s certainly going to have a say in finding the Astros’ next skipper. Biggio, a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow, is involved in the interview process to find a full-time manager.
“I’m honored and excited about it,” he said. “I’ve been part of this organization for a long period of time and they trust my judgment and my decision-making. I’m honored to be part of this process.”
With the Astros still undergoing a large-scale overhaul in their on-field talent, Biggio recognizes the importance of finding the right man for the job.
“It’s an exciting time for this organization,” he said. “You’re looking at getting a guy, a baseball man that’s going to lead these kids in the right direction and get them back to where we were before. Whenever you’re looking for a manager, you’re looking for somebody who’s hopefully going to be around here for the next 10 years. That’s the type of personality you’re trying to look it.”
Of course, Biggio played for seven different managers – Hal Lanier, Art Howe, Terry Collins, Larry Dierker, Jimy Williams, Phil Garner and Cecil Cooper – during his 20-year Astros career, so he knows a little bit about what it takes to be a successful manager.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that go on when you’re with the manager and coaching staff and players and the relationships you have with them and relationships you have in the clubhouse and in the airplane. There’s a lot of things that go on, and we’ve had some really good ones over the years, and we’re trying to find a lot more.”
Biggio endured a rebuilding phase early in his career, with the club losing 97 games in 1991. They improved to 81-81 in 1992, 85-77 in 1993 and had a 66-49 record in the strike-shortened season of 1994. Beginning in 1997, the Astros won four division titles in five years.
“That’s how quickly it turns around when you have the right personnel and the right people and right leadership involved,” Biggio said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but when you have the right people in the right situations it can turn around quicker than the players think it could.”
Biggio has become a trusted adviser to Luhnow, and his presence is the interview room during the managerial search is much more than window dressing.
“I like this side of it,” Biggio said. “You’re a part of a team down here [on the field] and part of a team up there [in the GM’s box], but as an organization you all work together. When we all work together we’re going to be pretty successful, and that’s the reason why the years we had here when we had the second-best record over a 10-year period is because your ownership group and front-office group and field personnel and the team were all on the same page, and once you get back to that we’ll start winning a lot more baseball games.”
Despite all the changes the Astros have been going through in the last month, manager Brad Mills never really appeared to be in danger of losing his job. And deservedly so.
Mills, who will return for the final year of his contract in 2012, has two years under his belt as manager (132-192 record) and has seen the Major League club stripped and payroll dropped while the team stockpiles prospects in a rebuilding phase. Mills did a terrific job of keeping the Astros competitive in the second half of the 2010 season after losing Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, and last season’s 106-loss campaign certainly couldn’t be put on him.
The Astros used 20 rookies last season, including starting second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Jimmy Paredes and outfielder J.D. Martinez, and had one of the youngest rosters in baseball, including an inexperienced bullpen. Mills’ mission has been to mold the young players and get them ready as quickly as possible while trying to win games, which is an extremely difficult challenge.
“Brad’s our manager,” new general manager Jeff Luhnow said Thursday when asked about his job status. “I had a good conversation with him, and I’m looking forward to working with him as our manager.”
Astros owner Jim Crane sang Mills’ praises.
“Brad’s a good developer of talent and that’s what we need,” he said. “I like Brad and I had a good time to visit with him and hear his input. We spent some time together [at the Winter Meetings] in Dallas, and Jeff feels the same way about him.”