3/7/2014 4:54 P.M. ET
Minor League camp opens in Kissimmee
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- About 160 players worked out for the first time as a group Friday on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., with the first full-squad workout of Minor League camp. They will begin playing games on March 14.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he plans to address the group on Saturday. The organization had six Minor League affiliates reach the playoffs last year, but Luhnow says he'll remind the players the ultimate goal is to produce winning players at the big league level.
"We want them to have an open mind about development, with the notion there are times when you're going to have to change something about our game because the coaches know there are some modifications needed to succeed at the big leagues," Luhnow said. "The players have to be willing to accept that and potentially take a step back before they take two steps forward."
Luhnow doesn't want the players to lose sight of the fact the Minor Leagues is about development and becoming the best they can be to help the Major League team.
"That's my main message to them, and the traditional messages of working hard and that they're professionals and have to behave themselves on and off the field and listen to the coaches," he said.
Krauss continuing push for roster spot
VIERA, Fla. -- No Astros player has helped himself more during the first week of Grapefruit League games than Marc Krauss, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and a lineout in Friday's loss to the Nationals.
Krauss is hitting .455 (8-for-15) in five games, with two of the team's three homers.
"I've been feeling good thus far through the first week or so of spring," he said. "Part of it just comes down to being able to feel comfortable at the plate and seeing the pitches well, and right now the ball is pretty big. I've been able to put consistent contact on it. I'm trying to keep that for as long as I can. It can come and go in baseball, and I'm trying to keep that good feeling I have at the plate."
Krauss' chances of making the club are bolstered by the fact he can play both corner-outfield spots and first base. He can also slot in at designated hitter. At the plate, Krauss worked in the offseason to reduce wasted movement in his swing and get to the ball quicker.
"I felt at sometimes in my whole career the last couple of years, I've missed fastballs I could hit," he said. "I think the bat barrel was always too slow, just getting the barrel of the bat to the ball as quick as I can and eliminating the extra movement and just trying to be short and quick with it.
"It feels great. It feels good and I feel confident in there, which is a big key as well. I'm going to try to ride it as long as I can."
This is the first spring in which Krauss has had a chance to make a Major League roster, something that motivated him in the offseason.
"That drove me all offseason to work hard and have that eye on the prize to make the team out of spring," he said. "And I've just been really working hard, putting the pedal to the metal, and right now we're having some good results."
Oberholtzer working out kinks on mound
VIERA, Fla. -- At least one of the two home runs Brett Oberholtzer gave up in his first start of the spring Friday against the Nationals was aided by a stiff wind blowing from right to left field, but the left-hander wasn't about to make any excuses.
Oberholtzer gave up five hits and six runs (five earned) in the first inning before settling down to work a 1-2-3 second, throwing a total of 46 pitches (30 strikes).
"Regardless of the outcome or the weather, I still need a little work mechanic-wise -- the timing between my landing leg and following through," Oberholtzer said. "I left a lot of balls up, offspeed and fastball. I was a little shaky out of the game and couldn't stop the bleeding."
Astros manager Bo Porter said he was impressed with the lefty's mound presence.
"You wouldn't think he went three up and three down," Porter said. "That's a credit to him. Sometimes things aren't going to go the way you want them to go. I love the mound presence and the way he responded to an adverse situation."
Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer to right field that would have been foul had the wind not carried it back inside the foul pole. Later in the inning, Wilson Ramos clubbed a mammoth three-run homer to left that traveled more than 400 feet.
"[The pitches] were [in] good spots," Oberholtzer said. "Harper hit a two-seamer in on his hands, and that's what we want him to do to open up that outside corner. We threw him two good fastballs away that he took, so that's why went in with a two-seam and hopefully get him chasing away, but that two-seam … he did a good job getting to it. I know the wind blew it back in, but that's baseball."
The home run to Ramos was also a fastball inside.
"I know when I do that and they get them pretty good like that, I fly open with my front shoulder," he said. "Regardless of the situations, it's more what I have to do to get better, and that'll come."
Astros looking into new Spring Training sites
VIERA, Fla. -- Officials from the Astros and Nationals were presented with 10 locations for possible Spring Training relocation sites, including eight locations in Palm Beach County -- the Astros' preferred site -- according to county documents.
Vero Beach, Fla., the longtime home to the Dodgers that sits vacant, and Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, were the two other sites.
Palm Beach County commissioner Hal Valeche said county officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday to recap the meeting and address a $50 million shortfall in the projected cost of building Spring Training facilities in the county.
The Astros are looking to relocate their spring site when their lease expires in Kissimmee following 2016, but they would need to have an agreement by the end of this year for that to be possible. The Nationals and Astros have talked about sharing a new facility.
Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, who's spearheading the move, didn't return messages.
Astros owner Jim Crane toured Tradition Field -- the spring home of the Mets -- earlier this week, and the facility could be converted into a two-team complex to be shared with the Mets. The Dodgers left their Vero Beach location -- known as "Dodgertown" -- in 2008 and now train in Arizona.
• With some of the Astros starting pitchers set to throw four innings in next outings and Minor League camp starting up, the first round of roster cuts could come in the next few days. The Astros currently have 65 players in camp.
"We're going to talk about it over the next couple of days," Luhnow said. "We still have eight or nine guys competing for five rotation spots, and they're all going to be stretched out and it's going to put a squeeze on innings."
The Astros will be able to get several pitchers on the mound Saturday with split-squad games against the Yankees in Kissimmee and Phillies in Clearwater. The club is off Tuesday, and Luhnow said he'll use that time to figure out how to move forward.
"We have some options in front of us," he said. "Other teams have already started doing [cuts], and ours is probably not too far away."
• Astros manager Bo Porter said he expects Dexter Fowler (neck stiffness) to play in one of Saturday's split-squad games.
• Instant replay will be used in both of the Astros' split-squad games on Saturday. Porter will stay in Kissimmee and manage against the Yankees, while bench coach Dave Trembley will manage the game against the Phillies in Clearwater.