10/17/12 8:08 PM ET
Porter getting to know team, hiring coaching staff
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
The first task at hand has been assembling his coaching staff, something Porter said Wednesday afternoon was in the final stages. An announcement revealing Porter's staff could be made as early as Thursday, when the skipper is scheduled to meet with the Houston media as a whole for the first time since taking the job.
Porter, a long-time Houston resident, was hired last month after working for two years as the third base coach of the Nationals, but it wasn't until Washington was eliminated from the National League playoffs on Friday that he could turn his attention to the Astros.
"It's good to be back home, first of all," Porter told MLB.com. "We've been going through the whole process of trying to put the coaching staff together, and we're at the back of that, and ultimately we'll have an announcement here soon. At the same time, I've been at the ballpark every morning and [I'm] just starting to go through player evaluations and look at the roster and look at the Minor League system and start to work on different things we need to address before Spring Training and this offseason."
Porter, 40, is inheriting a team that has lost a combined 213 games the past two seasons and is switching leagues to the rugged AL West. The Astros don't figure to contend in the division right away, but the work Porter, his staff and the front office do now will help the rebuilding process to continue in the right direction.
The Astros' current coaching staff consists of bench coach Joe Pettini, hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Doug Brocail, third-base coach Dave Clark, first-base coach Dan Radison and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson. Van Burkleo and Radison took over in August when manager Brad Mills, hitting coach Mike Barnett and first-base coach Bobby Meacham were let go. It's unclear who returns.
Porter said the make-up of the coaching staff is vital considering the youth of the club. The Astros finished the season as the youngest team in baseball last year.
"That's why you go through the process in which we're going through," he said. "We could have very easily just had a simple process and picked some guys and made an announcement, but we've gone through this process with the organization from a longevity standpoint.
"We're not trying to put a staff together that will have turnover next year or the following year, we're trying to put a staff together for the long haul. We're looking at a lot of different components as it comes to us having a young ballclub, knowing the amount of teaching that's going to take place, and we're trying to put people in place that our players are going to be able to benefit from for the long haul."
Much of the Astros' future will be dependent on the team's improving Minor League system, which is why Porter plans to go the Arizona Fall League in the next few weeks to get a first-hand look at some of the team's prospects, including first baseman Jonathan Singleton and pitcher Jarred Cosart. Both will be battling for jobs next spring.
What's more, Porter plans to study as much footage as he can from last year's 107-loss season.
Porter said he plans to reach out to every player on the 40-man roster to introduce himself and break the ice. He wants to know about their offseason program and give them his expectations for the organization moving forward.
"As much as those things you can take care of in the offseason before you get to Spring Training, it allows you to [get the] get-to-know[-you] period over with and allows you to hit the ground running on the baseball side at Spring Training," he said.
The Astros won't be big players on the free agent market this winter, but with no big salary commitments and an extra $30 million available from the team's new regional sports network partnership with Comcast and the NBA's Houston Rockets, the club will have some money to spend.
Of course, the Astros' needs run deep. They need to improve run production, especially going to the AL, and they could always use more pitching. Porter is enthused by the work done by starters Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles late in the season.
"Whenever you're talking about building a ballclub, whether you're talking about a first-division team that went to the playoffs or a team that didn't go the playoffs and is looking forward to the following year, it starts with pitching," he said. "When you look at the roster and you see the potential of the players at the Major League level and the players that are coming, it makes you feel pretty confident about the direction the team is going."
Porter spoke with enthusiasm and excitement, which is to be expected from a first-time manager. But he promised the eagerness won't wear off any time soon.
"It's exciting," he said. "The excitement you hear in my voice will be here the entire time I'm here because that's just my personality."