2/16/2014 1:58 P.M. ET
Unlike last spring, Astros sport names on jerseys
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Unlike last year when manager Bo Porter didn't allow the players to wear their last names on the backs of their jerseys -- he wanted them to earn it -- the players have their names on their spring tops this season.
"We moved forward one year and we're in a different place as an organization," Porter said. "We went out and we signed some proven Major League players that we brought into a core group of guys that went through the grind last year that earned the right to have their names on the backs of their jerseys.
"You look at the young players in which we had coming up, and it's one of those things you put that combination together. We are the Houston Astros and we're one family and these guys have earned the right to have their names on their jerseys."
Porter has begun sending the players a text message each morning with a motivational saying, which also appears on the daily schedule in the clubhouse. The second-year skipper is a proponent of positive reinforcement and motivational messages, which rim the ceiling of the home clubhouse in Houston.
Porter looking for veterans to lead by example
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Prior to Astros pitchers and catchers taking the field for the first time Sunday morning on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, manager Bo Porter met with a group of veteran pitchers he identified as being the leaders of the staff.
Porter met with Lucas Harrell, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Jerome Williams and Peter Moylan and told them he wants them to set a good example for the youngsters. They'll also be involved in some of the morning meetings.
"This will be a camp in which we really stress the synergistic chemistry of the team and giving them some time each morning to bond together and communicate and talk and be with each other," Porter said. "That will take place at 9 o'clock every morning when we will close the doors and kind of let them guys have their own space. Last year we didn't' do that. We had the coaches run a lot of the meetings, but we're going to put the onus on some of the veterans we have here and let them display some leadership. We believe it will bring the team together that much faster."
The Astros, who had the youngest roster in the Majors at the end of last season, signed Albers, Qualls and Crain to fortify the bullpen and inked Feldman and Williams to join the rotation. Moylan is a non-roster invitee to camp. Harrell is back for his third year with the club.
"When you are a young player -- and we've all been there before -- you look around the clubhouse and say, 'Wow, this guy's been here 10 years. I wonder how he's been able to accomplish that?'" Porter said. "Because you're young, you're impressionable and you're going to watch that guy and watch that every move. I told those guys, 'You will do more by whatever it is you do than you do by whatever it is that you say.' So make sure that your actions match what it is you're saying each and every day."
Fowler arrives early, meets new Astros teammates
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Pretty much everything is new in Dexter Fowler's life. He and his wife have a one-month-old daughter, Naya, and on Sunday he slipped on the uniform of his new team, the Astros. Fowler arrived at camp three days ahead of reporting day for position players.
"It feels good," said Fowler, who was traded from the Rockies in December. "It's different having a Spring Training here in Florida."
Fowler spent the previous eight years in the Rockies organization, and last year hit .263 with 12 homers, 42 RBIs and a .369 on-base percentage. He'll play center field and hit leadoff for the Astros, giving them a solid on-base presence at the top of the order.
Fowler met his new teammates Sunday before taking batting practice.
"Like I told my wife, it's kind of like the first day of school," he said. "But I went to three high schools, so I'm kind of accustomed to change."
During his meet-the-media session, Fowler was interrupted by manager Bo Porter pretending to be a reporter and using his bat for a microphone.
"I've known Bo for a number of years, and it's awesome to have him as a manager," he said. "What they're doing over here, what [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and them are doing over here, it's awesome, and I'm glad to be a part of it."
Qualls and Albers recall past camps with Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- No one had to tell Chad Qualls and Matt Albers where the training room was at Osceola County Stadium or where they had to go to get their breakfast. The colors may have changed, but it's the same clubhouse both patrolled while young players with the Astros seven years ago.
Qualls and Albers, two pitchers who were dealt away from Houston within a couple of days of each other in 2007, both re-signed with their original club this winter and worked out for the first time Sunday.
"The colors are a little bit brighter," Qualls said.
Qualls, the oldest player on the team at 35, was drafted by the Astros in 2001 and made his Major League debut three years later. He pitched four seasons with the Astros before being dealt to Arizona. Albers, 31, was drafted in 2002 and made his Astros debut in 2006.
"I've been telling a lot of people, it's kind of funny because when I was first here I was the young guy and one or two of three guys who were not married that were on the team," Qualls said. "Now I'm married and have two kids and I'm kind of like that old guy. It's definitely fun coming back to something you know and where you had some success. It's kind of cool coming back."
The last time Albers was in the clubhouse, the Astros had names like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt anchoring the team.
"It's definitely a different point in my career than it was eight years ago in my first camp," he said. "It's exciting to be back. It's a good first start. Seems like a team that can win a lot of games if we can play well."