2/18/2014 3:20 P.M. ET
Catchers begin days early with private workouts
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Daily work begins early for Astros catchers, who arrive by 7 a.m. ET each day -- more than an hour before most of their teammates -- in order to perform some group drills with Triple-A catching coach Jeff Murphy and Class A Advanced Lancaster catching coach Mark Bailey.
Murphy and Bailey put the six catchers, including Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan and Max Stassi, through receiving, blocking, throwing and footwork drills they don't get to work on during any other point of the day.
"The big thing here that Murphy is teaching us all about is quality over quantity," Stassi said. "We've all heard it 1,000 times, but we get in there and get our work in and get in and out, but it's really quality work. We're bouncing different ideas off of each other and talking about catching, really. It's an experience lab is what it is, without necessarily anyone watching you or grading you out on what you're doing."
This is the second year in a row Murphy has worked extra with the catchers, and both Corporan and Castro said it's extremely beneficial.
"That's how you prepare for the season," Corporan said. "That's our BP, you know? As a hitter, you take BP every day, and as a catcher you have to protect and frame and block and throw to the bases every day. That's how you're going to get better. That's how you get in shape, too."
Guzman arrives at camp ready to compete at first base
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Newcomer Jesus Guzman showed up at Astros camp for the first time Tuesday with a realistic chance to compete for a starting spot at first base this season. The 29-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Padres in December.
"I feel so great," Guzman said. "I feel excited to start working with a new team and new teammates. I'm ready to help this team where I can."
Guzman spent the previous three seasons with the Padres and hit .226 last year with nine homers and 35 RBIs while playing a career-high 126 games. He's competing with Brett Wallace, Jonathan Singleton and Marc Krauss at first base, but he can also play outfield.
"I want to be ready -- whatever position they want me to play, outfield or first," Guzman said. "Whatever they want, I'm here to work hard and try to be in the lineup."
Manager Bo Porter said he'll use the designated hitter during Grapefruit League play to make sure all of the players competing for first base get the appropriate number of at-bats.
Strom tries to get feel for staff with early spring looks
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The first three days of camp have allowed first-year pitching coach Brent Strom to finally get a look at the pitchers he's been watching on video all offseason. Strom has done an extensive amount of homework, watching video and studying analytical information.
"My first three days here have been to basically let my eyes tell me what I thought I might see with the numbers and the analytics," Strom said. "It's more of seeing if it's matching up for me. One group of pitchers has thrown once and one group has thrown twice, and we've all been very pleased. We have five guys that I haven't seen due to small setbacks and stuff like that, but overall, I'm very pleased with what I'm seeing."
The pitchers are going through daily fielding drills, which Strom says is as important as anything else they do.
"The biggest thing for me is when we do our drills and things like that is that they're going about it in the right way, trying to each day get a little bit better," Strom said. "Whether it's getting signs, covering first base, fielding bunts, all these different things are important in the overall scheme of things."
Strom wants his pitchers to set a foundation in the first few days of camp and then the pace will be increased as they become more proficient and get their feet under them a little bit.
"One thing I'm trying to reiterate with these guys is you learn by failure," he said. "If you never get outside of your comfort zone and your box, you never get any better. So we have some things planned with certain guys this spring we'll attempt to have them do that are a little out of character for them that you haven't seen in the past. Hopefully, they'll be able to learn from those, whether they're successful with it or even if they fail."
Prospect Owens healthy after missing most of 2013
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The spring brought renewed optimism for left-hander Rudy Owens, who missed nearly all of last season after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot.
"My foot is good to go," said Owens, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez trade in 2012. "I'm just kind of getting it used to running around in spikes all day again. It's good to go. It's 100 percent, for what it's worth now."
Owens made up for some lost time when he pitched for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. He made 10 starts and went 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 49 batters and walking 16 in 53 2/3 innings.
"It's pretty annoying, you know, going through surgery and having to get used to walking in it," he said. "That was the worst part. It hurt more than it ever did before, just getting used to walking again. Running was hard, but pitching was fine. I didn't have any problem with that. I threw down in the Dominican and it didn't give me any problems, and I'm excited for this year."
Owens is likely headed to the Triple-A rotation to begin the season, but could make his Major League debut at some point this year.
"I want to prove that I'm healthy and good to go," he said.
• Roger Clemens, a special advisor to the Astros, will be in camp for two days beginning Wednesday. Porter said he plans for Clemens to address the pitchers like he did last year.
"I felt like his talk to the team last year was absolutely outstanding," Porter said. "He relished in that, and when you have a guy as accomplished as Roger Clemens available to your organization, we're blessed to have him. He loves talking to the players, loves talking pitching to those guys. He'll have a segment he'll be able to speak to the team, and I'm pretty sure they'll look forward to it."
• Porter said he's thrilled to have his long-time mentor and former Minor League manager Dave Trembley as the team's bench coach this year. Trembley was the team's third-base coach last year in his first season on the staff.
"Dave Trembley is a man that has pretty much handled every job there is in baseball," Porter said. "I had the fortune to play for him. He is an extreme attention-to-detail-type person. He was really instrumental in my development as a baseball player, and I am extremely honored to have him as the bench coach here for the Houston Astros."