Lee in good shape, ready to produce
Astros slugger arrives at camp with high hopes for 2010
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The last player to have a chance to meet new manager Brad Mills face-to-face was left fielder Carlos Lee, who reported to Osceola County Stadium early on Wednesday morning for the first full-squad workout after flying in from his native Panama.
Lee, who showed up two days late to Spring Training last year after he claimed he got the reporting date mixed up, met with Mills for several minutes before taking the field. The Astros' highest-paid player, Lee said he had a productive conversation with Mills.
"He seems like a guy who really likes to have fun and is really going to enjoy the game," Lee said. "We had a chance to meet today, this morning, and we went over some things about the team and what I think. We had a really good conversation."
Lee, in the fourth year of a franchise-record six-year, $100 million contract, appeared to be in relatively good shape and said he was ready to go to work. The RBI machine will be plugged into the meat of the Astros' batting order once again this year.
"I still have to come and do what you're supposed to do, get here and get prepared and ready for a new year," Lee said. "I think it's going to be different because it's a different atmosphere and different manager, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this year is going to bring."
Lee, 33, has been one of baseball's best run producers over the past decade. He's one of just seven players to reach 100 RBIs in each of the past five seasons and has 321 RBIs in his three years with the Astros, which is the second most of any player in his first three seasons with the club (behind Moises Alou).
2010 Spring Training - Houston Astros
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Spring Training Info
Last year, he hit .300 and led the team in home runs (26), RBIs (102) and total bases (298) while playing 160 games. He spent much of his offseason in Panama, making monthly trips to Texas to tend to business on his sprawling cattle ranch near the city of Boling.
Along the way, he kept a close eye on the Astros and the moves they made to offset the losses of shortstop Miguel Tejada and relievers Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins. Houston added third baseman Pedro Feliz, starter Brett Myers and relievers Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon.
"The group of guys we've got here are capable of going all the way," Lee said. "We just need to stay healthy. That's the big factor. Just keep the group together for as long as we can. We've got a good group. We've got veterans, we've got young guys, and the veterans need to set an example and try to teach the guys the right way to do it."
Much of what the Astros are capable of doing this year will fall on the shoulders of Lee and Lance Berkman, who hit .274 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs last year. Houston needs a rejuvenated and healthy Berkman to approach his career averages, and Lee can't afford to slump in production.
"It's going to take everybody to do their part, and I've got to prepare as good as I can and try to do my best, but who knows what's going to happen," Lee said. "I'm going to prepare myself and try to go out there and do my best, and that's all I can say. I can't say I'm going to drive in 120 or hit 40 homers, but every time I go out there, I'm going to give 100 percent."
One of the keys will be staying healthy. Lee played a team-high 160 games last year after missing the final six weeks of the season in 2008 with a broken pinky finger.
"I want to play as many games as I can and see what happens at the end," Lee said.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.