Results tagged ‘ spring Training ’

Astros ready for game action

The Astros on Friday finished their final workout before they hit the field for their first Spring Training game of the season. They’ll battle the Philadelphia Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Clearwater, Fla., where it promises to be a warm and sunny afternoon.

Lucas Harrell is scheduled to start the game for the Astros and will be one of about six or seven pitchers throwing, including Jarred Cosart. Cole Hamels is starting for the Phillies. Harrell was named the Astros Pitcher of the Year last season after going 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts.

“I felt good in my last couple of sides and I felt good throwing in simulated games to the hitters, so hopefully I can take what I’m doing out to the game tomorrow,” Harrell said.

It’s only Spring Training, but getting on the mound to face other hitters is sure to increase the intensity.

“You always have a little bit of nerves,” Harrell said. “It’s always a little bit exciting. The fact is there’s a lot of guys competing for a job, and I’m one of them. Just to know that I need to go out there and pitch well and get one of those spots on the team, it’s one of those things I’ll definitely be really focused.”

Astros manager Bo Porter put the team through a shorter workout Friday after the players had a lengthy meeting with the Players’ Association.

“We worked on a lot of special plays today,” Porter said. “It was more of an explanation of shift defense, where does everybody go when you start to play these special coverages based on a hitter?”

Click here for the Astros notebook, which has information on Jose Veras playing in the World Baseball Classic, what went down at the MLBPA meeting and we catch up with former Astros player, Jose Cruz Jr. And here’s what Jonathan Singleton had to say in his first public comments since his suspension for marijuana, a suspension that will cost him 50 games.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Jose Ciserno.

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J.D. Martinez.

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Justin Maxwell.

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Justin Maxwell poses for a picture.

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Bo Porter talks to the team after the final workout of spring prior to games.

To the victors go the spoils…and banana splits

The Astros have spent all spring practicing their post-game handshakes, and on Thursday they got a chance to work on their walk-off win celebration.

Brandon Laird’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning capped a four-run rally to send Team Ensberg to a 5-4 win over Team Everett in an intrasquad game at Osceola County Stadium.

“Never say die with the ‘Stros,” manager Bo Porter said. “That’s outstanding. It was a great comeback with a lot of energy. It served a great purpose. They played the game the way it’s supposed to be played and took advantage of mistakes the other team made.”

Morgan Ensberg said: “Our motto the whole time is ‘That’s what we do, we win.’ I’ll be honest with you. It was the young guys that did it. Delino DeShields had some huge hits. Jake [Goebbert] in the bottom of the seventh hits the triple to tie it up. Chris Carter gets a couple of hits and Brandon Laird gets a couple of hits, and all of a sudden we’re partying on the field.”

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The losing team had to serve banana splits to the winning team.

“You want to turn it into a little bit of fun,” Porter said. “These guys have worked hard this entire camp and now we’re getting ready to play against opponents… We put a small wager on the line, something we all like — ice cream and banana splits.”

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Ensberg called it the biggest win of his managerial career, which isn’t hard to do when it’s your first game.

“The thing that’s impressive about it is my managerial style hurts the players, and the fact they could do something positive with me in the dugout is a testament to their mental fortitude,” he joked.

Here are the pictures from the intrasquad:

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Astros new radio team of Robert Ford and Steve Sparks.

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Coach Morgan Ensberg has already earned a name on his back.

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Players watch from the dugout.

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Carlos Corporan.

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Brandon Barnes connects.

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Jake Elmore.

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Brett Wallace

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Chris Carter.

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Vince Coleman.

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Chris Carter.

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Adam Everett.

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Bo Porter watches intrasquad.

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Veterans Jason Castro, Tyler Greene, Brett Wallace and Wesley Wright.

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To the victors go the spoils.

Players get their first win of spring

The day began with the five members of the media, including MLB.com’s Alyson Footer and myself, battling five Astros players in a friendly game of Family Feud. With the entire roster, field staff and spring staff in the clubhouse, the media and five players — Rick Ankiel, Jason Castro, Justin Maxwell, Carlos Pena and Nate Freiman — sat at tables facing each other.

Astros director of Florida operations Jay Edmiston served as host and manager Bo Porter used an air horn for wrong answers. The media stole the first question from the players, but Maxwell –who I need to point out attended Maryland over Harvard — crushed yours truly — who attended University of Houston over UTEP — in the speed round to give the players the win. Click here for a photo.

There was laughter, booing and cheering, and a good time was had by all.

As far as baseball goes, there will be an intrasquad game at 11 a.m. CT Thursday at Osceola County Stadium, but manager Bo Porter has already unveiled his lineup for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater.

SS Tyler Greene

2B Marwin Gonzalez

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Chris Carter

LF J.D. Martinez

DH Nate Freiman

3B Matt Dominguez

C Carlos Corporan

RF Trevor Crowe

——

RHP Lucas Harrell

These players are not making the trip: Jason Castro, Jose Altuve, Max Stassi, Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace, Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez.

Porter said he wants the regular position players to get between 50 and 70 at-bats in games.

“Some guys may need more, some guys may need less,” he said. “A guy like Carlos Pena may feel like he’s locked in with a week to go in camp. Altuve may feel the same way, or he may say, ‘I need to play seven, eight, nine innings because I need extra at-bats.'”

Porter originally had Che-Hsuan Lin in right field against the Phillies, but when he told him Wednesday he was in the lineup, Porter was caught off guard.

“He says, ‘Bo, I’m not going to be here. I leave today,’” Porter said. “I said, ‘Leave? Leave to go where?’ He said, ‘To the World Baseball Classic.’ I knew he was going to the Classic, but I didn’t know he was leaving [Wednesday]. I was under the impression all the guys going to the Classic were going to leave on March 2. That was a little bit of a shock, but we’re glad that he’s going to play for his country, and represent his country and we’re in full support of that.”

Lin is playing for Chinese Taipei in the Classic.

Finally, today was photo day, which meant each player was rotated through several different photography stations. Here’s glimpse:

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Astros set for intrasquad

Nothing says Grapefruit League action is around the corner like a good, old-fashioned intrasquad game, which is what the Astros will do at 11 a.m. CT on Thursday at Osceola County Stadium. The teams, which are led by Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett, were drafted Wednesday morning:

Team Everett: Jose Altuve, Tyler Greene, Jason Castro, Fernando Martinez, Rick Ankiel, Brett Wallace, George Springer, Nate Freiman, Marwin Gonzalez.

Team Ensberg: Justin Maxwell, Matt Dominguez, Carlos Pena, Chris Carter, Jonathan Villar, J.D. Martinez, Delino DeShields, Carlos Corporan, Brandon Barnes.

There will be no pitchers throwing because the Astros are going to use a pitching machine that throws curveballs.

Today’s Astros notebook has Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid discussing how pumped up they are to face their former team on Saturday when the Astros play the Phillies, as well as plenty of other information. And don’t forget the story and video of Roger Clemens throwing live BP to hitters on Wednesday. If you think it’s silly, read what the hitters had to say.

Now the photos:

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Astros catcher pause between drills.

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Catcher Jason Castro prepares to throw.

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Nate Freiman holds a runner while Jose Valdez steps off the rubber.

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Group of players listen to instruction.

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Chris Carter gives a high five.

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Philip Humber winds it up.

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Roger Clemens helps Philip Humber with mechanics.

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Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Corporan rest after working.

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Doug Brocail mentors Rhiner Cruz.

Peacock impresses Porter in live batting practice

Astros pitchers have one more day of live batting practice Wednesday before they’ll appear in Grapefruit League games, beginning with Saturday’s opener against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.

Astros manager Bo Porter singled out right-hander Brad Peacock, acquired in a trade with Oakland earlier this month, as throwing the ball well.

“It was down in the zone,” he said. “Those guys [the group that pitched Tuesday] had their last live day, so they mixed in their breaking stuff and his breaking ball was good, change-up was good and his fastball was explosive with late life. It was good to see.”

Porter said Tuesday the club will use a pitching machine that throws nothing but curveballs in Thursday’s intrasquad game.

“As you take batting practice and even through live [BP], these guys haven’t taken too many swings off of breaking balls,” Porter said. “It’s one of those things that when you get to a game setting and you have the backdrop and the space and the field and all the cages and stuff like that removed, it’s always a good drill.”

The Astros will hold a draft Wednesday morning to pick teams for the intrasquad game, which will be held inside Osceola County Stadium and last about five or six innings. The teams will be called Team Everett and Team Ensberg, with Minor League instructors Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett serving as coaches.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Bo Porter and Roger Clemens.

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Bo Porter demonstrates a cut-off throw.

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Matt Dominguez prepares to catch a ball.

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Tyler Greene is all smiles after “‘Stros Win!”

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Rudy Owens hands out high fives.

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Hitting coach John Mallee talks to his guys.

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Carlos Pena mixes in an energy bar.

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Justin Maxwell adjusts his socks.

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Carlos Pena and bench coach Eduardo Perez talk.

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Bud Norris throws live batting practice.

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Roger Clemens and Doug Brocail talk to Brett Oberholtzer.

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Dave Clark stands over a group of players changing shoes.

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Jason Castro prepares to take his cuts.

Astros hitters face live pitching as Clemens arrives

The big news at Astros camp was the arrival of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, who will be a frequent visitor to camp this year. The Astros have invited him back to help tutor their young pitchers, and he rolled up his sleeves and went to work on Sunday by watching pitchers throw live batting practice and offering advice to several young arms.

“Obviously, when someone like Roger is talking, you’re a sponge,” pitcher John Ely said.

Also, Astros owner Jim Crane had the thrill of a lifetime when he got the chance to play golf with both President Obama and Tiger Woods. Crane spoke to MLB.com about his great day.

Meanwhile, Sunday marked the first day hitters faced live pitching, and most of the hitters used the time to simply track pitches — watch them thrown into the catcher’s mitt — more than trying to hit, though there were a few who took some hacks on a cold day.

“I took a swing and squared up a line drive up the middle,” Carlos Pena said. “At this stage, you want to make sure you’re ready to hit, and you try to track the pitches and follow them into the glove. But you want to make sure you’re in good position to hit, and then if that’s what you want, go ahead and take a swing.”

The chilly temperatures at camp Sunday were a good primer for those April road games in Seattle, manager Bo Porter said. The skipper said the first day of live batting practice was more for the pitchers than anything else.

“It’s was good for the pitchers to get out of the bullpen and get a hitter in the batter’s box and get closer and closer to starting games here,” Porter said. “If you’re seeing the ball live and seeing ball come out of the pitcher hand – the weather was why some guys decided to track – but at the same time I think it was overall good.”

Here is the day in pictures:

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

A long line of fans waits for a Roger Clemens autograph.

Jason Castro and Roger Clemens talks.

Jason Castro and Roger Clemens talk.

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

Marwin Gonzalez gets ready to hit.

Marwin Gonzalez gets ready to hit.

Carlos Pena and Roger Clemens hug.

Carlos Pena and Roger Clemens hug.

Doug Brocail and Roger Clemens.

Doug Brocail and Roger Clemens.

Jeff Luhnow and Roger Clemens.

Jeff Luhnow and Roger Clemens.

Brad Peacock warms up in bullpen.

Brad Peacock warms up in bullpen.

Bud Norris plays catch.

Bud Norris plays catch.

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Clemens back at work with the Astros

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Roger Clemens was back on the fields at Osceola County Stadium on a chilly morning, wearing and orange and blue batting practice cap, a new blue Astros jacket and a pair of blue jeans that had the team’s daily schedule tucked in the back of the waist.

“Our colors have changed and the expectations have changed a little bit,” Clemens said.

Sunday marked Clemens’ first day on the field as a special instructor for the Astros. He’ll spend about four days in Kissimmee this week, and be back and forth between Florida and Houston two more times this spring. It was all result of owner Jim Crane wanting the seven-time Cy Young Award winner to get more involved while he has a personal services contract.

Clemens joined the coaches’ meetings on Sunday morning and then hit the field after speaking with reporters for about 10 minutes. He plans to shadow manager Bo Porter, trying to learn as much as he can about the Astros’ promising young pitchers, which he admits will be harder considering there are no names on the backs of the jerseys.

“It was fun to listen in on the coaches meeting,” he said. “A lot of great coaches are here to help these young kids kind of find their way, take the next step. Hopefully that’s the case.”

Clemens said his message to the players will be simple.

“Right now, you want to get great quality work in, not really quantity,” he said. “I’ve always felt the ability to focus better than the next person is what’s going to help them the most, and have those expectations they can win even though everybody thinks they can’t.

“Some of the excitement will wear off here after a week and games will get underway, and then  it’s trying to establish yourself. From what I understand from all the other pitching coaches floating around here is there’s plenty of jobs to be had on the staff, so that’s exciting. I’ve seen most of these guys.

“I know there’s not names on the backs on their jerseys, and that makes it a little more difficult. I’ve seen most of them and have thrown batting practice to some of the everyday players that are here now and doing the same things I’ve always done. I visit with the guys by phone or text and watch them, and that’s what it’s all about.”

When the season starts, Clemens will stay involved. He’s a season-ticket holder so he’ll be around the ballpark often, and the Astros will lean on him heavily when debating which player to take with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft.

“I’ve seen film on guys they’re interested in and it’s always better to be able to eyeball them in person,” he said. “My deal is, I love rooting for the underdog. I’ve always been that way. I won 200 games with my stuff and my ability and [the rest] with my heart and getting it done. I’m excited. I’m a season-ticket holder, so I’m excited just like anybody else is for these guys to get out there.”

Porter has made a great first impression on Clemens.

“Bo has a lot of energy,” he said. “I like his detail. He pays attention to detail, and I like him talking about the running game a lot. For me, as a pitcher, I can just tell them… I don’t know our personnel and the guys that can run, but I imagine we have some guys who can run and get it done.”

Clemens was asked about the recent Hall of Fame vote, saying he wasn’t concerned with not getting elected on his first time on the ballot this year. He said his stint with the Sugar Land Skeeters last fall was simply about getting to play with his son, Koby, and not about making a comeback as so many had speculated.

Still, Clemens said he might get on the mound this spring and throw live batting practice, which would help him stay in shape and perhaps help the batters.

“I really enjoy doing it,” he said. “I try and throw quality BP and it’s fun for the guys. They seem to enjoy it. I can tell when a guy steps in the plate, I can tell him what I see and how I’m going to go about breaking him down as a hitter.”

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 MLB.com 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. MLB.com 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.

Short work day in advance of full-squad workout

Following a day of steady rain that drenched the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, the Astros kept things light in Friday’s final workout before the full team hits the field on Saturday.

Three groups pitchers, including Erik Bedard, Philip Humber, Jordan Lyles, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Veras and Josh Fields, got their work in on the mound, but the pitchers got a break from their fundamental stations.

“We didn’t want to mess up the fields,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “The dirt is a little bit soft. I talked to the grounds crew they strongly recommended that if we could stay off the field it would be better moving forward.”

Friday marked the official reporting date for position players, and outfielder Chris Carter — acquired in a Feb. 4 trade with Oakland — shortstop Jonathan Villar, catcher Carlos Perez and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin were among those showing their faces for the first time.

Here’s video of Carter talking to MLB.com on Friday morning.

Porter will address the team as a whole for the first time Saturday at 9 a.m. ET, with owner Jim Crane and president and CEO George Postolos scheduled to be in town as well for the first full-squad workout.

“Guys are eager to get here and get around teammates and get started,” Porter said.

In other news:

  • Relief pitcher Hector Ambriz, who rolled his ankle in a drill Thursday, wasn’t able to throw off the mound Friday. He was seen by a team doctor and diagnosed with an ankle sprain and put in a walking boot. Porter said he is day-to-day.

The day was abbreviated, but there was still time for pictures:

Rene Garcia greets shortstop Jonathan Villar.

Rene Garcia greets shortstop Jonathan Villar upon his arrival in camp.

First base coach Dave Clark and GM Jeff Luhnow talk.

First base coach Dave Clark and GM Jeff Luhnow talk.

Our first look at catcher Carlos Perez, acquired from Toronto last July.

Our first look at catcher Carlos Perez, acquired from Toronto last July.

Ross Seaton signs an autograph.

Ross Seaton signs an autograph.

Rule 5 pick up Josh Fields prepares to throw a pitch.

Rule 5 pick up Josh Fields prepares to throw a pitch.

Rudy Owens, acquired from Pirates in Wandy Rodriguez trade, works in bullpen.

Rudy Owens, acquired from Pirates in Wandy Rodriguez trade, works in bullpen.

Catcher Rene Garcia puts on his gear.

Catcher Rene Garcia puts on his gear.

A coach greets bullpen coach Dennis Martinez.

A coach greets bullpen coach Dennis Martinez.

Bench coach Eduardo Perez lays down the law.

Bench coach Eduardo Perez lays down the law.

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