2/21/2014 7:10 P.M. ET
Feldman, pitchers face live hitters for first time
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The goal for Astros pitcher Scott Feldman was to simply not hit anybody. Feldman and a handful of other pitchers faced live hitters for the first time Friday, throwing for about 15 minutes on the back fields against teammates.
"You're just getting reacquainted with the mound and seeing hitters out there and trying to get all my pitches over and work with the catchers a little bit," Feldman said. "Trying not to hit anybody is probably the most important thing."
In years past, hitters would typically stand in the box during the first days of live batting practice and simply track the pitches with their eyes. The Astros this year gave hitters certain in-game scenarios to focus on when they stepped into the box.
"Throughout the years, it's been called 'pitching practice,' and the hitters would get in there and see their five pitches and get out," manager Bo Porter said. "It's something as a staff we talked about and wanted to try to get a little bit more out of that situation, so our hitting coaches put together a program that put these guys into situations and counts to intensify it for the hitter."
Porter says it allows the hitters to sharpen their mind while the pitchers get their work in, as well.
"You train yourself from a mental standpoint of executing that situation," Porter said.
La Russa: Bagwell, Biggio belong in Hall of Fame
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Three-time World Series champion manager Tony La Russa, who's going into the Hall of Fame this year, spent a decade battling the Astros led by Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio as manager of the Cardinals in the National League Central.
La Russa has an immense amount of respect for the Killer B's, and he said on Friday that both should get into the Hall of Fame. Biggio came up two votes shy of reaching Cooperstown, N.Y., this year in his second year on the ballot in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"There's no doubt that Craig's going to be a Hall of Famer. It's going to happen," said La Russa, who is a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig. "He almost got in the first time and didn't get in the second time. I'm sure he gets a little impatient, but I'm sure it's going to happen for him, and when he does, it will be well deserved."
La Russa said he enjoyed battling yearly with the Minnesota Twins while he was manager of the A's in the 1990s, and he said he had a similar rivalry with the Astros when both were in the NL Central.
"Houston, in our division, Bagwell, Biggio and [Lance Berkman], they had good surrounding characters the couple of years you had [Carlos] Beltran and [Jeff] Kent," La Russa said. "So I saw Bagwell as a huge influence, not just on the field but off. One of the best players of our generation."
La Russa said he doesn't understand the criteria members of the BBWAA use to vote for the Hall of Fame.
"Otherwise, Jack Morris would be in the Hall of Fame," La Russa said. "The new metrics have a real important place, just don't exaggerate them, and I think they get exaggerated at times. Like with Jack Morris, and maybe Bagwell."
Astros officials participate in expanded replay meeting
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The general managers, managers and bench coaches from the Braves, Tigers and Nationals joined Astros officials Friday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium in a meeting in which they were briefed on the expanded use of instant replay, which begins this season.
MLB executive vice president Joe Torre was joined by replay subcommittee members Tony La Russa and John Schierholz and others in giving a presentation and answering concerns from the clubs about replay. The meeting lasted two hours and 45 minutes.
"We have a long deck to show them," Torre said. "Basically, some video, but mainly instructions on how the replay system is put together and responsibilities and basically how it's going to work."
Replay will be expanded to include the majority of plays outside of balls and strikes. Each manager will have as many as two challenges in one game, and umpires will have the power to institute a review beginning in the seventh inning.
"When we started this, when the Commissioner put John Schierholz, myself and La Russa in charge of this subcommittee, [we thought] what could be so tough about looking at a TV screen and figuring out what happened?" Torre said.
Among the scenarios addressed, Torre said, were situations when there were two challenges at one time, both teams challenging the same play and a double play situation where one team challenges at second base and the other at first base.
"Just from questions that are asked, we're still looking into certain concerns of people, but for the most part everybody has been pleased with what they heard," Torre said.
Torre's crew will have four more meetings with multiple clubs -- two more in Florida and two in Arizona. He said all teams will have at least five games during Spring Training to simulate the use of instant replay.
"It's going to be pretty clear once they see the list of what's reviewable and what's non-reviewable," La Russa said. "Most plays that happen are reviewable. We're just not going to stop the game to get every play right. And there are some plays that are not quite as simple as the out at first or out at second -- how many guys are on base. Those are the ones that take a little more time explaining. They have sharp guys in there and they know it's real and going to happen."
Chambers brings postseason experience to young team
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros outfielder Adron Chambers played in 41 games for the Cardinals in 2012, but that was enough to earn him a World Series championship ring. In fact, he's the only player of the 64 in Astros camp who has a championship ring.
Chambers keeps the ring in his locker at Osceola County Stadium in case any of his teammates want to come by and check it out. After all, that is the ultimate goal for all of the players.
"I want to get the trust in my teammates so they will want to walk around and see it," Chambers said. "It's about camaraderie. I was only there [in St. Louis] for a couple of months, but I was able to build some relationships with guys I still talk to today from that team. It's more than just that ring, but that's a nice little symbol to have and remind me."
Chambers, a non-roster invitee, is awaiting more hardware from the Cardinals, who last year won the National League pennant. He appeared in 25 games for St. Louis in the regular season and got four at-bats in the NL Championship Series.
"I took on a role I hadn't experienced, coming off the bench and being that energetic type of guy," Chambers said. "I was an everyday player. I wanted to be a starter. You had to embrace all types of situations we were dealing with, but that's what we built that season, being able to go through all that adversity and still manage to win ballgames.
"I tell you, it makes the process of coming over here that much better, trying to make this team. Now I understand, even if I don't make it, the development of a team and what they're trying to be. What will make us win today, not 10 years from now. I understand that."
Prospect Wojciechowski rests with sore back
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who last week underwent an MRI on his strained middle back, said Friday he was sore one day after he attempted to throw. He's still listed as day-to-day and isn't about to rush the injury.
"It felt great this week, and I thought I was ready and started throwing yesterday, and it felt good," Wojciechowski said. "After a little bit, it started getting sore on me and today was pretty sore. I'm going to have to rest it a little bit more and see where I am. I'm not trying to rush it. It's still early. The big thing is to be ready for the season, because I definitely don't want this to flare up once the season starts."
Wojciechowski, who's competing for a rotation spot, now walks the fine line between trying to impress the coaching staff while not wanting to aggravate an injury.
"It's kind of torture right now, just sitting around watching everybody throw," Wojciechowski said. "It's one of those things I have to be patient and take my time and not try to rush it."
Wojciechowski, who sustained the injury throwing Feb. 1, went 9-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) last year at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Odds and ends
• Right-handed pitcher Jorge De Leon is suffering from a right quad strain sustained covering first base during drills Thursday.
• Four Astros Spring Training games will be televised on MLB Network: March 4 vs. Mets, March 9 vs. Phillies, March 20 vs. Nationals and March 24 vs. Braves. All four are road games.