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The Astros plan to give Brian Bogusevic a good look in center field this spring, putting him in competition with Jordan Schafer and Jason Bourgeois for the starting nod. Bogusevic started 31 games in right field last year after Hunter Pence was traded, but has some experience in center and enough athleticism to play the position.
What’s more, the Astros have Jack Cust and Travis Buck capable of playing right field.
“His ability gives him the opportunity to be able to play center or right, but we want this guy to step up and be an everyday starter for us and there’s reason he won’t be able to,” Astros manager Brad Mills said of Bogusevic. “We all saw what he can do at times last year.”
Bogusevic, a former first-round pick as a pitch who made the switch to outfield in 2008, understands the importance of being versatile enough to play different positions, and is more than willing to give center field a shot.
“There’s a lot of guys going for open spots, so I think everybody is trying to make a good impression all around,” he said.
Cust can play in left and right and will get some ground balls at first base. Top prospect Jonathan Singleton will also get some time in the outfield, Mills said. Versatile infielders Matt Downs and Brian Bixler will also do some work in the outfield.
Regarding Schafer, Mills said: “He seems like he’s on a mission.”
Here are a few other items of interest:
- Astros manager Brad Mills announced the starting pitchers for the team’s first two Grapefruit League games, with veteran Livan Hernandez pitching Saturday against the Washington Nationals – his former team – at Kissimmee. Left-hander J.A. Happ will face the Nats on Sunday in Viera, Fla.
- Astros pitchers will take a break from throwing live batting practice on Tuesday, giving some of the pitching groups two days off between times on the mound.
- The Astros haven’t been able to successfully schedule extra B games against other clubs, something they wanted to do to create more innings for all of the arms they have in camp. Mills said some pitchers might have to throw in Minor League games. “You’d rather have B games against other teams, but that didn’t quite work out,” he said.
- Infielder Angel Sanchez was again forced to watch from the sidelines against Monday because of his ailing back. Sanchez did some light toss, but didn’t participate in the team’s defensive drills. He said the back is improving.
Here is the day in pictures:
The Astros will hold their first full-squad workout on Sunday, when all 63 players in Major League camp are scheduled to hit the field for the first time this spring. Manager Brad Mills expects everyone to report by Sunday morning.
“We’re very happy with the six days we’ve had [with pitchers and catchers] and now we’re ready to move forward,” he said.
In fact, the Astros have had a huge number of position players participating in drills for the last few days, a number that’s growing daily. Non-roster outfielder Brandon Barnes, who showed up Friday, was on the field for the first time Saturday.
The only players who hadn’t worked out at Osceola County Stadium by Saturday were outfielders Carlos Lee and Jonathan Singleton and infielder Jonathan Villar. Position players aren’t required to report until Sunday morning, when they will be given physicals prior to take the field.
Here’s the day in photos:
Right-handers Jarred Cosart and Mike Foltynewicz and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer – three young pitchers ranked among the Astros’ top seven prospects by MLB.com – were among seven hurlers who participated Saturday in the first day a Minor League mini camp.
The other participants are right-handers Jake Buchanan, Ross Seaton, Josh Zeid and Jason Stoffel and catchers Miles Hamblin, Ryan McCurdy, Roberto Pena and Mike Kvasnicka. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who watched the pitchers throw, said the young arms will get some innings in Grapefruit League games.
Here’s a quick Q and A with Foltynewicz:
Q: What are you hoping to get out of the Minor League mini camp?
A: “Trying to work on the things we left off on in instructional ball, trying to get the command of the strike zone down. I’m really just trying to get a head start along with these seven guys to get ready for a good season.”
Q: How excited are you about a chance to pitch in a big-league Spring Training game?
A: “Heard about that probably a month ago, and it made me want to work even harder. That’s my ultimate goal, and it’s that little bit more motivation.”
Q: How big of a year is this for you?
A: “It’s a pretty big year. Last year, I had good games and had bad games, and this year I just have to put it all together and find that happy medium. I think it’s a big year to prove myself to a lot of the doubters out there, so it’s a pretty big year.”
Q: What’s it like to be a part of this group of talented young arms coming up?
A: “It’s pretty exciting. Later on down the road, this is going to be a great Houston Astros team. we’ve got a lot of good arms and I’m really excited for the future.”
Here’s a quick Q and A with Jarred Cosart:
Q: What are you hoping to get out of the Minor League mini camp?
A: “It’s great. I was bummed at first about not coming to big league camp, but it happens and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t control it. That’s what Fred and all the guys told me today, to come out here and pitch and getting down here early just helps me get a little jump on everybody else coming to Minor League camp. It’s a good group of guys and I had Brocail and a lot of the big league guys watching today, so it’s really not much different than over there.”
Q: Are you excited about the chance of pitching in a Grapefruit League game?
A: “This would be my first chance. They said be ready to throw in multiple big league games. They’re getting us ready as if we’re in big league camp and I’ve heard they’re having a lot of split squad games to get a lot of the younger guys over there who are fighting for that fifth spot. They’re going to have openings. They said to be ready for a couple of games.”
Q: You’re getting instruction from Doug Brocail and Jon Matlack. How beneficial is that?
“I got open ears to anything. Matlack pitched in the big leagues for 15 years a while back and Brocail just recently came out of the game and he’s been a big league pitching coach for two or three years now. They know what they’re talking about, as do all these coaches. I’m always open to any advice, mechanical, mental, whatever. They just said I’ll make a lot of money if I pitch down. That’s pretty much the basics of pitching. Right now it’s staying consistent and doing the little things. They said the stuff is there and the name of the game is mix pitches and staying down in the zone, and I have a chance to be pretty good if I can do that.”
Here are some photos from the first day of Minor League mini camp:
When pressed on Thursday about who he plans to use in the closer’s role this year, Astros manager Brad Mills remained non-committal. Mark Melancon spent most of the 2011 season at closer, but was shipped to the Red Sox in December.
“We’re having discussions as we speak,” Mills said. “We’ve talked about some things and talked about some guys as we go forward, and we’re constantly doing that. We’re talking about names and different guys we might give the opportunity and see how things go. It comes down to what we see in Spring Training and in some of these games, and also who we feel would do the best job.”
The Astros, who converted only 25 of 50 save chances last year, have several candidates. Veteran closer Brandon Lyon could step back into the role, but he missed most of last year following major arm surgery. Youngster David Carpenter could also be an option.
For more on the future of the closer situation, the health of Wandy Rodriguez and much more, click here.
Here are the photos of the day:
More than two dozen positions players were already in camp by Wednesday and working out together on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium. They took batting practice when the pitchers and catchers were done and even did defensive drills. That was a welcomed sight for manager Brad Mills.
“It’s nice to see them here and ready to go, and now they’re able to get some work done and enjoy themselves,” Mills said. “It’s good to get it done.
Some of the players, such as infielders Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson and Angel Sanchez, were working out in Houston prior to coming to spring camp. Non-roster invitee Travis Buck got to Kissimmee at the start of February to familiarize himself with the new surroundings.
The position players aren’t required to report until early Sunday – prior to the first workout – but Mills said all of them should be on site by Saturday.
For all the news from today’s workout, check out my notebook.
Here are the photos of the day:
With the exception of Bill Hall, who was away from the team to be with his fiance following the birth of their child, the Astros had their first full-squad workout Sunday at Osceola County Stadium. The Astros will be able to practice as a team for about a week before they play their first Grapegruit League game on Feb. 28.
The position players, who took the field for the first time, hit the ground running. They participated in base running drills, as well as drills fielding their positions. There was also a round of batting practice, but the real test begins Monday when the batters get thrown into the fire and face live pitching.
There was a bit of injury news at camp Monday. Pitchers weren’t scheduled to throw, but right-hander Alberto Arias threw a side session with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg catching him. Arias said he felt discomfort in his shoulder, the same shoulder he had surgically repaired April 22, 2010, so he will be evaluated further Monday.
Otherwise, the Astros remain injury free as camp got underway in earnest.
Here are some photos of the first workout:
Above: Michael Bourn runs towards the outfield for drills on one of the back fields, while Brett Wallace prepares to field some ground balls at first base.
Above: Reliever Alberto Arias pitches in the bullpen.
Above: Hunter Pence plays catch while warming up Sunday morning.
Above: Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg gets animated while working with Lance Pendleton.
Above: Drayton McLane speaks briefly with some fans on the back fields.
Above: Jason Michaels takes batting practice