Astros await Lee's arrival
Outfielder plans to report Thursday after mixup
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When Carlos Lee arrives to Spring Training on Thursday, he'll likely run into a range of emotions from the uniformed personnel waiting for him. And he can count on hearing a few choice words from Lance Berkman, who was gentle but stern with his reaction to his teammate's tardiness.
"That he should have been here today," Berkman said, when asked what he will say to Lee. "But what are you going to do?"
While 55 of 57 players were dressed and ready by 9:30 a.m. ET Tuesday morning, the day of the first full-squad workout, Lee was a no-show. Yordany Ramirez was also absent, but he had an excuse -- travel delays that complicated his trip to Miami, Fla.
No one had heard from Lee regarding his absence until later in the day Tuesday, when club officials brought it to the outfielder's attention that he was supposed to be in Kissimmee. Lee apparently had the report date confused, as he conveyed in a statement released by the club.
"I'm very remorseful," the statement said. "I got confused with the start date. I made a mistake and will assume responsibility. I'll be there first thing in the morning Thursday to work out and I'm excited about getting going again."
Lee's tardiness will carry no punishment, because technically, the mandatory report date is Sunday.
"We want everybody to be here," general manager Ed Wade said prior to Lee making his statement. "We have 57 guys invited to camp. That's the phraseology -- you invite players to Spring Training until the mandatory reporting date. We'd love to have everybody here on the first day."
As would Berkman, who said he wasn't aware the mandatory report date was still a few days away, but indicated he would have shown up on time even if he had that nugget of information earlier. "
That's not to say Berkman hasn't been tempted to show up late in the past.
"When I heard Spring Training was going to be longer ... I had always heard stories that Nolan [Ryan] didn't come until later and that kind of thing, because he was in pretty good shape," Berkman said. "Then I was like, 'What do you gain by waiting another three or four days?' It's better to not create any sort of a stir, get here when everybody else gets here. It's not going to kill you to be down here another three or four days."
For that reason, Berkman was irked by Lee's absence.
"On one hand, it's Carlos," Berkman said. "That's just the way he is. He's a great teammate, we love having him in here and obviously he's a tremendous RBI guy. He and myself and Miggy [Tejada] and maybe a couple other guys, we're going to be looked [upon] to carry the load. I think it's a good example for the young guys and everybody else to be here when everybody gets here."
Manager Cecil Cooper called Lee's absence a "mistake," but indicated he might have his own punishment waiting for Lee on Thursday.
"From a team standpoint and what the front office or Ed might do, I don't think [there will be punishment]," Cooper said. "He apologized. But I might get something, though. I might make him run until he gets tired. I'll figure something out."
Lee, who missed the final seven weeks of the season last year with a broken finger, has been declared fully healed by doctors and cleared to participate in all spring activities. Lee also plans to play for Panama in the World Baseball Classic.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.