KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros general manager Ed Wade was pleased with the case the team laid out in the Hunter Pence arbitration hearing Friday morning in Phoenix. The sides debated for 3 hours, 45 minutes and expect to hear a decision from the three-person panel Saturday.

Pence, the club's Most Valuable Player a year ago, is asking for $6.9 million, but the team offered $5.15 million. Pence made $3.5 million last year and hit .282 with 25 homers and a career-high 91 RBIs along with 18 stolen bases.

"This is part of the process we go through when you can't reach a negotiated settlement, and now it's all about baseball," Wade said.

Wade, president of baseball operations Tal Smith and assistant general manager David Gottfried represented the Astros at the hearing with Pence and his representatives. Since losing a case with Rick Wilkins in 1996, the Astros have won their last four arbitration hearings -- Darryl Kile (1997), Jose Valverde (2008), Mark Loretta (2008) and Wandy Rodriguez (2010).

"I thought Tal did a very effective job," Wade said. "I thought they were effective with their presentation, and now it's a case of the arbitration panel deciding where Hunter fits in the salary structure."

Pence said Thursday he would return to Florida immediately after the hearing and would report to the Spring Training facility in Kissimmee on Saturday morning.

Pendleton finds himself among his heroes

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the first things pitcher Lance Pendleton did upon arrival to camp earlier this week was get re-acquainted with Jose Cruz, the former Astros star and longtime first-base coach who's now a special assistant to the general manager.

Pendleton grew up in the Houston area and cheered for the Astros, and played college ball at Rice University with Enrique Cruz, one of Jose Cruz's sons. Enrique Cruz was the starting second baseman on the 2003 Rice team that won the College World Series. Pendleton was a freshman on that team.

"He's seen so many players that I doubt he remembers me," Pendleton said of the elder Cruz. "I was just reminding him I played with Enrique in '03 when we won the championship and everything. It was good to see him again and talk to him."

The chance to share a field with Cruz, and eventually Astros icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio (also special assistants), is an honor for Pendleton, who was taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly intimidated, watching the hometown heroes growing up, and being around them [now]," he said.

Clark keeping his managing skills sharp

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros third-base coach Dave Clark, a longtime Minor League manager, spent nearly two months this offseason managing the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League. Clark, who managed the final 13 Astros games of the 2009 season, has a goal to return to the manager's chair one day and wanted to stay sharp.

"It was definitely a great experience," he said. "I was around some real good talent, a lot of players I didn't know from different ballclubs. I got a chance to see a lot of players we were interested in, and I was able to send reports back on certain players for the organization. I just enjoyed managing again."

Clark managed the Astros' Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi from 2005-07, and later managed at Triple-A Round Rock before joining the Astros' staff. He said he's already in the works to find a job managing this winter.

"When you get away from managing for so long, you lose the edge, and I want to try to keep that going as much as I can," he said.

Pitchers taking group approach to bullpen sessions

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The top three pitchers in the Astros' rotation -- Brett Myers, J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez -- each threw their second bullpen session Friday. With 30 healthy pitchers in camp, the Astros have split into six pitching groups, with five pitchers in each group. Myers is the leader of group one, Happ of group two, and Rodriguez of group three.

Groups 1-3 threw off the bullpen mounds for the second time Friday, and groups 4-6 will do the same thing Saturday before everyone takes a day off Sunday, the first day position players report. So far, camp has been relatively quiet, which is definitely a good thing. Manager Brad Mills likes what he has seen.

"It's really nice to see those guys throw the ball so well," Mills said. "It was even smoother than [Thursday]. Any time you have your top three guys in the rotation throwing on the same day, and having them throw like they did, that was nice. Plus, Aneury Rodriguez and Sergio Escalona, from the left side, threw well, too. I don't want to single them out because other guys threw well, but it was a good day."

Getting back on the mound and throwing to catchers -- while doing all the work the pitchers have been doing during the first three days of camp -- has been an enjoyable experience for left-hander Wesley Wright. He threw off the mound for the second time Friday.

"The main thing is it's good to be back out with the guys on the field, and good to be back in the routine of baseball," he said. "It's one thing working out on your own at home and having your schedule, but having a consistent schedule and being up early in the morning and getting your body acclimated to that, it's been going good so far. I can't really complain about anything."