KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the first position players to arrive Monday was 2011 first-round pick George Springer, an outfielder who played at the University of Connecticut. Springer was invited to Major League camp, but isn't in the running to make the big league club.
Still, Springer understands the importance of taking full advantage of the opportunity.
"I don't report until [Sunday], but I'm getting here a week early and watching these guys and getting to learn," said Springer, who is ranked No. 3 by MLB.com on the Astros' Top 20 Prospects list. "I'm not quite sure [what to expect]."
Springer, who was drafted No. 11 overall in last June's First-Year Player Draft, batted .179 (5-for-28) in eight games for Tri-City of the New York-Penn League after he was selected as Houston's top pick. He continued working out in the winter to prepare for spring camp.
"It was extremely productive," he said. "I got bigger, faster, stronger, and now I'm just waiting to start playing."
Schafer apologizes for offseason misstep
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia during a traffic stop following last season, apologized publicly for the first time Monday shortly after arriving at camp.
Schafer, traded to the Astros last July, is currently participating in a court-mandated pretrial intervention program in Florida that will clear his record if he successfully completes it.
"It was a bad situation," Schafer said. "First of all, I want to apologize to the Astros and say I'm sorry for the inconvenience they went through, and I'm sorry to the fans. I got caught up in a bad situation, and hopefully I've learned from my mistake and moved on and become a better person for it, and hopefully we don't have any more instances like that. Hopefully I can be a good role model and learn from this."
Schafer said he's thankful of how supportive Astros management has been during his ordeal.
"They've stood behind me, which I really appreciate," he said. "I put them in a bad spot and I'm going through everything, as far as the process, they want me to do. I'm in a program and taking tests and stuff and doing whatever they ask me to do. I'm extremely appreciative of the Astros for standing behind me, and the fans and my family for being there."
Schafer reported to camp at 204 pounds after putting on about 15-20 pounds this winter working with Orlando-based trainer Tom Shaw. He batted .245 with seven stolen bases after coming over to the Astros.
"I'm ready to get in here and get going and put everything that's happened behind me," Schafer said.
Recovering Castro back behind plate
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the first time since he was in the Arizona Fall League last October, Astros catcher Jason Castro caught in the bullpen during Monday's first day of workouts. Castro had surgery in January to remove a bone from his left foot after missing all of last year due to ACL surgery on his right knee.
"I feel it went really well," he said. "It was nice to get in there and catch someone with pretty serious movement."
Castro, who caught hard-throwing left-hander Xavier Cedeno, would typically catch three bullpen sessions per day early in spring camp, but the Astros are making sure to ease him back to camp.
"I only saw him from a distance, but I talked to everybody and it seemed like he was moving very well," manager Brad Mills said. "We only had him catch one 'pen simply because there's no reason to push him right now until he kind of works into being in catching shape and so forth."
Kvasnicka's presence adds catching depth
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Working out with the catchers in Major League camp on Monday was Mike Kvasnicka, whom the Astros drafted with a supplemental pick in 2010 out of the University of Minnesota as a third baseman. The club has made the decision to move him to catcher full-time.
The presence of Kvasnicka, who's not officially part of Major League camp but is ranked No. 19 by MLB.com on the Astros' Top 20 Prospects list, gives the club seven catchers, which is needed early in camp because of the lighter workload Jason Castro will endure.
"Mike has always wanted to be a catcher, and I do have experience with him from when we scouted him [with the Cardinals]," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "You can never have too many catchers, and really looking at our organization and going over the depth chart with [director of player development] Fred Nelson and other folks, we really felt there was a need to add more depth catching-wise.
"If we have a guy who wants to catch and appears to have the tools to catch, I felt like it was a good opportunity for us to give him a shot here in Spring Training. He's been here since early February working out, and if he can do the job, he'll be the catcher of the future in our organization."