2/23/2013 1:45 P.M. ET
Depth gives Astros Minors pitching puzzle to solve
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With the Astros having added significantly to their starting pitching depth in the offseason, general manager Jeff Luhnow said the club might get creative in how it uses starting pitchers in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues when the season starts.
The Astros, who have 16 starting pitchers in camp, could use tandem starters at the beginning of the season in Triple-A and Double-A, meaning two starters could pitch in the same game. One would start the game and be followed by the other, giving everyone a chance to get innings.
"We're going to have to get creative about how we utilize the pitchers at the top two levels or players are going to have to repeat a level they might not otherwise have to," Luhnow said. "I'd rather have this problem than what we faced last year, which was giving innings at Double-A and Triple-A to players that weren't a part of our future."
Luhnow used tandem starting pitchers while he was farm director in St. Louis.
"It worked well at the beginning of the year to give everybody innings," he said. "There's some separation that usually occurs after the first month or so. It's something we're going to discuss. It's not ideal because players aren't used to it and they don't get the traditional wins or losses like they would for a normal starter, but they do end up getting roughly the same number of innings."
If the Astros open the season with a rotation of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, Philip Humber and Erik Bedard, they could have Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, John Ely, Alex White, Jose Ciserno, Ross Seaton and Brett Oberholtzer competing for innings at Triple-A.
"I like the way we went out and got some veteran free-agent guys and have some guys coming through the system," Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco said.
Correa prepared, undergoes first spring workout
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, hit the field Saturday in Kissimmee for his first official workout of Spring Training. He's one of 20 players taking part in a Minor League minicamp.
"I feel really good," said Correa, ranked by MLB.com as the Astros' No. 2 prospect. "I prepared myself in the offseason. I feel like I'm in my best shape physically and mentally, and I feel prepared for this season. I'm starting to know what I'm facing now after going through my first year. Now I'm starting to know how it works, so I feel really prepared."
Correa, 18, got off to a slow start when he made his professional debut last year but rallied to hit .232 with two homers, five stolen bases and nine RBIs in 39 games for the Gulf Coast League Astros. He finished the year with Greeneville of the Appalachian League and hit .371 in 11 games.
The question now is whether Correa will begin the year at a full-season club or stay at extended spring training and join a short-season club. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Correa's goal is to start at Class A Quad Cities, but that might be too aggressive.
"High school kids out of the Draft should probably start in extended for a month or so because it's a good opportunity for them to really get going before they hit a full-season club," he said. "We're going to be very cautious with him and see. We also have a lot of players from last year's Draft we feel are ready to move to that level."
Luhnow said Correa, who will probably be in big league camp next year, will likely get some at-bats in Major League Spring Training games this year.
"I'd like to get him that exposure," he said. "I think it's good for him to get a taste of it and let him come in and be the extra guy and get a couple of pinch-hits. That's a good experience for a young player."
Porter continuing coaching duties as manager
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter received a text message early Saturday from Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who joked that he missed him throwing batting practice, which he did the previous two years as Washington's third-base coach.
Porter still plans to continue throwing batting practice as manager with Houston, and he threw it to the first hitting group prior to his Grapefruit League managerial debut on Saturday.
"I love throwing batting practice," he said. "I love hitting fungos. It gives you an opportunity to evaluate. You can find out a lot throwing batting practice to a guy and hitting ground balls. I told our entire staff, 'I will not do anything differently than when I was a coach.' I will have the same responsibilities. I'm in this thing just like they are."
Porter was eager for games to finally get under way, but he said his first game as manager didn't carry any significance for him.
"I think I'm more excited for the players," he said. "They worked extremely hard this offseason, they worked hard in Spring Training and we get a chance to go out and play against an opponent."
Greene first to hit first in Astros' spring opener
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first lineup of the season had Tyler Greene hitting leadoff for the Astros on Saturday, and it's a good bet whoever wins the starting shortstop job -- Greene or switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez -- will be the team's leadoff hitter.
Greene has hit leadoff only 23 times in his brief Major League career, and he's not your prototypical leadoff hitter. Still, he has some speed and more pop than you'd normally find in a No. 1 hitter.
"The No. 1 and No. 2 spots have always been where I've been coming up through the Minor Leagues, so it's something I'm used to," he said. "I love being at the top because you set the tone and can get on base for the big guys to drive you in, and it really allows me to use my speed and steal some bags."
An advantage to hitting first on an American League club is you won't usually be following the pitcher in the lineup.
"The pitcher kind of throws wrinkles into the order of things a little bit," he said. "Now it's just go out and play and have a productive at-bat."
• Porter will stay in Kissimmee for the team's split-squad game Tuesday against the Tigers, with bench coach Eduardo Perez heading to Port Charlotte for the other game against the Rays.
• The Astros have received permission from Major League Baseball to wear their blue batting jerseys with the rainbow under the arms for Sunday games and other selected games. They were originally only going to be used for batting practice and Spring Training games, but the team likes the look so much it will wear them in regular-season games.
• Former Astros general manager Ed Wade, who was responsible for adding several of the team's current top prospects while he was GM in Houston, was in Clearwater on Saturday. He's a scout for the Phillies, a team for which he was the general manager prior to coming to Houston.