3/2/2013 6:15 P.M. ET
Keuchel makes his case for a roster spot
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Left-hander Dallas Keuchel ended last season in the Astros' rotation, but he finds himself competing for a spot on the club in his first Major League camp this year.
Keuchel, 25, made 16 starts with the Astros in three different stints with the Major League club, going 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA in 2012. He threw a complete game in his second start in the big leagues, but certainly had his share of struggles the rest of the way. All of it has helped Keuchel come to camp in a better frame of mind to compete.
"You learn as a person, not only when things are going well, but when things are going bad," Keuchel said. "I took a step back and looked at things last year, and in the bad starts I wasn't locating. It's not about who has the best stuff out there. It's hitting your spots and being consistent, and repeating my delivery."
Keuchel made his first start of the spring on Saturday against the Braves and worked two scoreless innings, allowing three hits and not striking anyone out.
"It was just nice to get my focus," Keuchel said. "That first time out [in relief on Monday], I kind of was everywhere mentality wise, and this time out I tried to really focus on the mental side and I got myself ready -- and I think it was a lot better. There's a lot of competition, and that's good for a lot of guys. When it comes down to it, you have to keep pitching."
Braves' Gonzalez believes Porter will be a success
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the men Astros manager Bo Porter considers his biggest influence is Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who managed Porter at Triple-A Richmond in 2002. Porter was later his third-base coach, when Gonzalez managed the Florida Marlins.
Gonzalez, who got a chance to visit with Porter prior to their meeting on Saturday at Osceola County Stadium, has no doubts Porter will be a successful manager.
"Bo's a smart, energetic person, and a good baseball man," Gonzalez said. "He's got a young team that he can grow with and continue on and hopefully win some championships. He's going to do fine. I'm proud of him. I wish him all the success in this opportunity he's gotten."
Gonzalez, in his third year managing the Braves, has kept in communication with Porter since the Astros hired him last year. Now that the Braves and Astros are in different leagues, Gonzalez joked he'd offer as much advice to him as he could.
"We've talked many times, and I told him he's more than welcome to call me for anything at any time," Gonzalez said. "I'm not anybody special -- I'm not Tony La Russa or Bobby Cox. But I told him whenever he wants to talk about anything, please don't hesitate to call me."
Johnson enjoys returning to face Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who was drafted and developed by the Astros, made his first appearance at Osceola County Stadium in an opposing uniform on Saturday. The Astros traded Johnson to the D-backs in July, and he was dealt to the Braves along with Justin Upton in January.
"It's different coming here," said Johnson, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft by Houston. "I drove up today and I didn't know where to go. I tried to go in three different doors. It's fun, though. I really appreciate being here. This is the place that gave me an opportunity, this actual field.
"This is where I would come to Spring Training and try to earn an actual job, and show everybody what [I could] do. It's fun for me."
Johnson, who's platooning with Juan Francisco at third base for the retired Chipper Jones, is content in Atlanta. He hit .286 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 44 games last year for the D-backs after leaving Houston.
"I'm excited," Johnson said. "We've got a really good team, and I'm just trying to do my part and keep the line moving for all those big boys."
Single-game tickets go on sale Monday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros single-game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. CT on Monday by visiting www.astros.com/tickets or calling 1-877-9ASTROS. Fans can also purchase season tickets, group tickets and reserve nightly suite rentals.
The Astros' new logo will be featured on several giveaway items in 2013, including a mini bat (April 19) and an umbrella (May 4). There will also be a Jose Altuve bobblehead giveaway on April 20 to the first 10,000 fans through the gates.
The mascot, Orbit, will be featured in his first "bobble-belly," in which the doll will wiggle from the hip, rather than the head. All three home jerseys will be featured as giveaways this season -- including the white, orange and blue/rainbow batting practice jersey.
Pink in the Park Week, dedicated to bringing awareness to breast cancer research, will be May 7-12, and Faith and Family Night at Minute Maid Park is July 20. Every Friday night home game will feature the Astros wearing their orange alternate home jerseys, as well as postgame fireworks.
Other promotional dates of note are: Bayou Bash (May 25), Summer Youth Days (June 20, July 24 and Aug. 12), Heroes Night (Sept. 13) and Dog Day at Minute Maid Park (Sept. 15).
Meanwhile, Social Media Nights are back. The first two are scheduled for April 19 and May 9. Priced at $30 per ticket package, Social Media Night includes a visit to batting practice, Field Box II seating, a T-shirt, a pregame reception and a visit from a player, Orbit or a staff member.
• Pitchers Jose Veras (Dominican Republic), Rhiner Cruz (Spain) and Xavier Cedeno (Puerto Rico) are scheduled to leave Sunday for the World Baseball Classic. Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin (Taiwan) left camp last week to join his team.
• Former Astros player and coach Jose Cruz arrived in camp on Saturday, and will be in Kissimmee for 10 days as a special instructor. Cruz's official title with the club is a community outreach executive, and the popular "Cheo" played with Houston from 1975-87.
• Catcher Max Stassi, who underwent surgery for a sports hernia on Thursday, returned to camp Saturday and was understandably moving around slowly. He's expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks. Stassi was acquired from the A's in last month's Jed Lowrie trade.