HOUSTON -- The Astros were thrilled with the job Brad Mills did in his first season as manager. Sure, the team finished 76-86 and in fourth place in the National League Central -- a two-game improvement over last year -- but considering the amount of upheaval Mills had to deal with, things could have been much worse.

Mills lost his first eight games as manager and had to endure another eight-game losing streak in May, as the club stumbled to a 41-59 start and soon dealt franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in an effort to get younger. The Astros went 32-18 between July 28 and Sept. 20 to get within four games of .500, before stumbling in the final two weeks.

"He was a first-time skipper and he handled everything pretty well," pitcher Brett Myers said. "I'm sure it was a learning experience for him as much as it was for us, and for me having a new skipper. He's doing a good job. He stuck with me plenty of times this year when he didn't have to and gave me an opportunity to pitch six innings almost every time. That showed me a lot about how he feels about his players."

Mills is under contract for next year, but the club has an option for 2012. The entire coaching staff, with the exception of hitting coach Jeff Bagwell, was recently given two-year extensions though 2012, so it seems likely the Astros would pick up Mills' option at some point.

"There's no sense or urgency about it in mind," general manager Ed Wade said. "Millsie knows what we think of him. We expect him to be here for a long, long time and we'll get to it at the proper moment. No timetable has been set at this point. Certainly anybody that perceives him other than a long-term guy for us is looking at it completely erroneously."

Bagwell was offered a two-year extension and is expected to decide later this month.

Wade, Mills taking look at club's future

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Ed Wade, manager Brad Mills and director of player development Fred Nelson will be among the team's contingent heading to Kissimmee, Fla., on Tuesday to watch the Minor Leaguers the club had sent to the Instructional League.

"I get to talk to the guys down there and see them and watch them play," Mills said. "That's what's so hard about this job is a lot of times, you don't get to see the guys at the Minor League level. You read reports on them every day, but you don't get a chance to see them. I'll get a chance to check them out, some of them anyway."

Among the players the Astros will send to Florida are pitchers Ruben Alaniz, Tanner Bushue, David Carpenter, Mike Foltynewicz and Dallas Keuchel, catchers Ben Heath and Chris Wallace, infielders Delino DeShields Jr., Mike Kvasnicka and Jiovanni Mier and outfielders Jay Austin, Telvin Nash, Ariel Ovando and Austin Wates.

"We're excited about the group that's there, and the early returns from people who have been there have come back with real solid reviews," Wade said. "This is a chance for us to see a lot of the better young guys in one setting. With all the things going on in the season, I didn't get a chance to get out and see them as much as I wanted. They're in one spot and you're able to put names with faces."

Astros players pack it up for offseason

HOUSTON -- A few players and manager Brad Mills trickled through the clubhouse on Monday afternoon to pack up their lockers and collect their belongings for the offseason.

"It was a long year, especially for me being with three different teams," said pitcher Nelson Figueroa, who was the winning pitcher in the team's final two victories of the season. "It was a happy ending for me getting a chance to play and produce and have a lot of fun doing it. I'll look back on this season with a lot of great memories and experiences and with my eyes toward the future. This future is definitely bright for this team."

Mills plans to stay busy this offseason, splitting time between Houston and his full-time home in Visalia, Calif. He'll travel to Florida on Tuesday for the Instructional League and plans to have knee replacement surgery shortly thereafter.

After spending the six seasons prior to 2010 as bench coach of the Red Sox, Mills isn't exactly used to finding things to do in the first week of October. The Red Sox made the playoffs five times in his six years in Boston, winning two World Series.

"Going home in the first part of October is not fun," he said. "Five out of the last seven years, I hadn't had to go home yet."

Several players will play winter ball, including Tommy Manzella, Anderson Hernandez and Henry Villar in the Dominican Winter League. Hernandez and Villar will play for third-base coach Dave Clark, who will manage at Licey.