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Day 4: Here come the position players

Astros pitchers threw their final bullpens Tuesday before facing live hitters. With the full squad set to work out for the first time Wednesday, the pitchers will take a day off from throwing before ratcheting it back up by facing hitters on Thursday – a week before the first Spring Training game.

Manager A.J. Hinch continues to be impressed by how well-prepared his pitchers are this spring.

“I think some of the readiness of the pitchers to get into games or into simulated games has been notable,” he said. “The number of guys that have come in here and told me they threw simulated innings, they’re up and running, there’s not too many guys easing into these bullpens. I don’t know if it surprised me, but it’s a pleasant surprise if I’ve been surprised.”

Hinch said the quality to attention to detail has been good.

“That’s expected at this level,” he said. “I don’t want to dive too much into things being surprising, but I expect a lot because this is the big leagues. Guys are coming and the focus is there and I’m happy with that.”

Before the full squad hits the field on Wednesday, the Astros will hold a team meeting. Hinch will talk to the team, and typically general manager Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane will say a few words as well.

“I’ll have a couple of words for the whole team and then we’ll get on the field,” Hinch said. “I think the tone and the vibe of camp has been good, and I think the pitchers and catchers that have been here will be able to show and live with that, with the position players. There’s some messages to send, some introductions to be made, and then there’s a full-squad workout.”

Quotes of the day

“It’s hard to embarrass a guy who wears a beard like that,” Hinch joking about singling out bearded Dallas Keuchel in clubhouse.

“I’d prefer no dive. It’s the one thing that we didn’t mention beforehand is we’d like them stay on their feet, but we corrected it afterwards,”Hinch on 6-7 pitcher Scott Feldman taking all-out dive to try to field a ball during PFPs on Tuesday.

“I know he wants to prepare to play every day. From our early conversations, he doesn’t know what a day off is. That’s fine by me.”Hinch on Jose Altuve.

Injury report: RHP Brad Peacock (hip surgery) threw 20 fastballs in the bullpen Sunday in his first action since having surgery and is progressing well. … RHP Vincent Velasquez (strained right lat) won’t throw for at least two-to-three weeks. … RHP Josh Fields (left hamstring tightness) threw in the bullpen Tuesday without incident

The day in photos can be found on my new Instagram page:


Hinch says there’s no pressure on Altuve to repeat as batting champ

Fields hopes hamstring issue is behind  him

Tweet of the day

Astros show support for Venezuela

Several Astros players and staff members joined with other teams in posing with the Venezuela flag and signs that read “PAZ, TODOS UNIDOS, HERMANDAD” in Spanish in a plea for peace for a nation in crisis. The sign loosely translated in English reads “peace, together, brotherhood.”

Venezuela has seen an increase in violence in the last few weeks as the government has tried to subdue a protest movement. The Astros who posed together included native Venezuelans Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, Jesus Guzman, Cesar Izturis, David Martinez, Carlos Perez, Gregario Petit and Ronald Torreyes. Players from other nations, such as Carlos Corporan and Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico, also participated, along with bullpen Javier Bracamonte and bullpen assistant Carlos Munoz, both of whom are from Venezuela.


Bracamonte, a native of Caracas, spoke following the display of unity and explained to reporters how difficult things are in the country. Bracamonte, who was a victim of violence himself three years ago when he was held at gunpoint during a bank robbery in his home country, is hesitant to take his daughter to Venezuela to meet his family.

“I want my daughter to know when I came from and see the neighborhood where I grew up,” he said. “I have brothers and sisters that want to see my daughter, but I’m a little afraid.”

Bracamonte was in Venezuela a few months ago for winter ball with J.D. Martinez, who’s from Miami, and he could sense the tension.

“I have two friends of mine that died very young of heart attacks, and I think it’s because of the stress of the whole country,” he said. “[While in winter ball] we didn’t do anything outside the hotel and just go to the ballpark and that’s what it was. I went to see my family for a few days and they didn’t do anything outside. I just went to the ballpark to the hotel to the ballpark.”

“The good thing is they have security for the players to go pick them up and drop them off at the hotel, and a bunch of those guys live in the hotel that way they feel safe. … It’s been tough. You see all the video. Right now there’s no media covering it because they’re kicking people out. The only thing you see is by phone or Facebook or Twitter and you see a lot of people filming.”

Munoz, who’s from Maracaibo, said it’s difficult for his family in his homeland to find basic supplies like food and soap.

“I think we’ve gone back like 60, 70 years,” he said.

DeShields eager for another big season

Astros prospect Delino DeShields Jr. didn’t make the Top 100 prospect list, but he’s certainly one of the up-and-coming performers in Houston’s Minor League system following a terrific 2012 season in which he stole 101 bases combined between Lexington and Lancaster. He’s ranked as No. 7 among second base prospects in baseball.

DeShields, who could begin the season in Double-A Corpus Christi, spoke to earlier this week about the upcoming season.

Q: What did you do during the off-season?

A: “I’ve just been working out and trying to enjoy my friends and family as much as I can before I have to go back out for camp. But nothing really specific, just trying to get better.”

Q: How important is this year in your development coming off a big year?

A: “It’s going to be a challenge for me, but I’m ready for it. I prepared myself really well. I’m just excited for what the year has to come. I don’t really know what’s going to happen; you never know what’s going to happen in baseball. My main thing is just to stay healthy and see what happens.”

Q: Do you expect to be in Corpus Christi to start the year?

A: “I have no idea, but I hope so. I’m just going to go to Spring Training and play my butt off and they’re going to make the decision at the end of the day. Hopefully I make the team. If not, I’m not going to be upset. I’m going to keep working and get there.”

Q: Will it be hard to live up to the numbers to put up last year?

A: “It’s going to be tough, but I’m not going to say I’m going to steal 100 bases again this upcoming year. I’m going to try to. I’m going to try to give the people what they want. As long as we win games and that stuff, that’s all that really matters to me.”

Q: With all the trades the Astros have made recently to jettison veteran players, are you able to see yourself reaching the Majors soon?

A: “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Like I said, I just have to stay healthy and can’t risk getting hurt and stay positive about everything. I can’t let people get in my head and continue doing what I’ve been doing. Hopefully I’ll be there at the end of the day.”