Notes: Wilson OK with move to left field
New slugger has spent most of career in center field
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Preston Wilson was unsure where in the outfield he would play when he signed with the Astros, but that changed upon Jeff Bagwell's announcement last Saturday regarding his health status.
With Bagwell out of the lineup, Lance Berkman moved to first base, creating room for Willy Taveras in center. Wilson likely would have played center had Bagwell remained with the club, but instead, he'll move to left field.
As he stated during the January press conference after he signed with Houston, Wilson was fine with any of the three outfield positions. He probably would prefer to play center, but he said from the beginning he'll go wherever he's needed.
"That was known before I signed to come over here," Wilson said. "If it was a different circumstance where I was told off the bat I was going to be their center fielder, that would be different. I knew the situation."
Of his 928 games in the outfield, Wilson has appeared in 868 in center, 41 in left and 19 in right.
Wilson recalled playing at least once in left field at Minute Maid Park as an opposing player, but he's not quite familiar with the quirks of the outfield scoreboard behind him in what is a very shallow area of the field.
Some parts of the scoreboard cause the ball to take a crazy bounce, if it hits just in the right place. Other times, the ball hits a dull spot and drops inches in front of the board.
Wilson will have two days to acclimate himself to his surroundings before the regular season begins. It's likely Wilson will man left field on Friday and Saturday when the Astros host the Royals in the final exhibition games of the spring season.
Other than that, he'll listen to the sound advice of teammates who have played there.
"You've got to be smart and learn from other guys' mistakes," Wilson said. "That's basically what it is. They'll tell you, 'I did this, don't do that there.' You try to increase your learning curve by listening to what other guys say about it."
Sparks' next step: Steve Sparks retired last July and soon after visited his old Detroit skipper, Phil Garner, in his office before an Astros game.
Sparks, 40, was interested in joining the Astros' front office in some capacity after ending a nine-year career that included stops in Milwaukee, Anaheim, Detroit, Oakland and Arizona.
But Garner asked him if he was interested in coming to camp this year as a non-roster invitee, and Sparks figured, why not?
"I thought, let's do that, I don't have anything to lose," Sparks said. "So I've prepared in that direction before. I wasn't trying to get back in, but once I made a decision, I gave it my best shot."
Sparks was released Wednesday after posting a 1-3 record and an 11.30 ERA in six appearances this spring. The knuckleballer, a resident of the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, said he expects to retire for good.
"This was just an opportunity to possibly play for the team in the town where I live," he said. "It was a no-lose situation. I got a lot of opportunities, I just wasn't able to get it done."
While he's not currently interested in coaching, he'd like to look into working in a front-office capacity that doesn't require for him to be away from home a lot.
"If they had anything in that arena, it would be an honor to work for this organization," Sparks said.
Opening Day plans: As part of the pregame ceremonies Monday for Opening Day, the Astros will honor their past championship teams, which includes appearances by several stars from those clubs.
Bagwell will be one of the players representing the most recent championship teams. The plan tentatively calls for him to also be introduced with the Astros during the starting lineup presentation.
One idea under discussion is to introduce the non-starters, then the starters, then Bagwell last.
"It would be nice to save him for last and then the fans could go crazy for two or three minutes," Craig Biggio said.
Another possibility is for Bagwell to be introduced as the first non-starter, prior to the 25-man roster being announced.
Before Bagwell's departure from Kissimmee on Tuesday, Biggio had talked to his long-time teammate about possibly taking one last at-bat during one of the exhibition games with the Royals. Bagwell didn't have much interest in that.
"We thought it would be a chance for the fans to see him play one more time, but he wasn't into it," Biggio said. "He didn't want to go out there and do badly. This [Opening Day introduction] will be nice."
Bagwell will also be with the team on Tuesday for the presentation of the National League champion rings, the last time he might wear an Astros uniform.
Acquisitions: The Astros on Thursday made two trades: they acquired infielder/outfielder Joe McEwing from Kansas City and infielder Cody Ransom from Seattle. Both trades were made in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
McEwing, 33, played 83 games for the Royals in 2005, hitting .239 (43-for-180) with seven doubles, one homer and six RBIs. McEwing has a .252 average over eight Major League seasons.
Ransom, 30, played in parts of four seasons for the Giants. He has appeared in 114 games, hitting .238 (17-for-68).
Both players will open the regular season at Triple-A Round Rock.
Odds and ends: Ivan DeJesus Jr., son of Rookie League Greeneville manager Ivan DeJesus, is a prospect in the Dodgers system and played in the Grapefruit League finale in Kissimmee on Thursday. The younger DeJesus was the Dodgers' second-round pick in the 2005 draft. ... The Round Rock Express will participate in the first outdoor professional sporting event held in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area last August. The Express will open the Pacific Coast League season on April 6 with the New Orleans Zephyrs at Zephyr Field, beginning at 7:05 p.m. CT. The game will open an eight-game road trip for the Express. The series with the Zephyrs will run through Sunday, April 9.
Coming up: The Astros will open a two-game exhibition series with the Royals at Minute Maid Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Brandon Backe will take the mound for Houston, facing Royals right-hander Joe Mays.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.