3/16/2014 9:15 P.M. ET
Quad Cities receives 2013 championship rings
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Players and staff of the Astros' Class A affiliate Quad Cities received their 2013 Midwest League championship rings Sunday in a ceremony and dinner at the team's Minor League clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, farm director Quinton McCracken and Minor League field coordinator Paul Runge spoke to the group before handing out the rings to the players and manager Omar Lopez, pitching coach Dave Borkowski, hitting coach Joel Chimelis, outfield/baserunning development specialist Vince Coleman and strength and conditioning coach Julio Diaz.
Quad Cities, in its first season as an Astros affiliate, went 81-57 and won the league championship series on a team that included former No. 1 overall Draft picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, as well as Lance McCullers Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Vincent Velasquez, Rio Ruiz and Josh Hader.
"It's real cool," McCullers said. "We went to Quad Cities and it was a close-knit group of guys, and that was our plan from the beginning. We wanted to start off Quad Cities as a Houston Astros affiliate the right way and we're real proud and really excited."
Correa, who led the league in OPS while finishing second in on-base percentage and batting average as an 18-year-old last year, showed his leadership and maturity when he unexpectedly addressed his teammates after receiving his ring.
"I wanted to make them feel like they know why we won," Correa said. "Obviously, we had talent, but talent alone can't win championships. We had a great atmosphere, we worked hard every single day and we had a good work ethic as a team, so I think those are the things that led us to win the championship."
Lopez, who was in his first full year of managing, cultivated a family-like atmosphere, in which the players could turn to the coaching staff at any time for any problem.
"We told them at the beginning of the season and at the end and the middle of the season, worry about going outside on the field and playing hard and giving us your best effort," Lopez said. "Let us develop your career in our hands. That was the goal and they did that. They trusted in us, and we appreciated that."
Tri-City, which won the New York-Penn League championship last year, will receive its rings in a similar ceremony on Wednesday.
Peacock pleased with development of changeup
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros pitcher Brad Peacock knew he needed a strong outing to improve his chances of breaking with the team in two weeks, and the right-hander delivered Sunday by throwing four innings in relief and giving up two hits and one run while striking out four against Washington.
For Peacock, who excelled as a starter with the Astros toward the end of last season, the key to his effectiveness Sunday was his changeup, which he has been working on vigorously this spring with pitching coach Brent Strom.
"The changeup was great today, and that's the pitch I've been working on the most and I was able to throw it for strikes and balls when I wanted," he said. "I was able to locate it well."
Last year, Peacock had three stints on the Major League roster and went 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his final 12 appearances of the season (nine starts), setting him up to battle for a rotation spot this spring. He credited an improved slider with helping him succeed a year ago, but he focused on the change Sunday.
"Last year, I had three decent pitches and I just needed a changeup," he said. "Me and Stromy have been working every day trying to throw it like my fastball and make it look like my fastball."
The game marked only the second Grapefruit League action of the season for Peacock, who had thrown in two Minor League games since allowing four hits and five earned runs March 1 against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.
"It's been a while since I've been in a real game, and it felt good to get out there and get the adrenaline going again," he said. "I needed a good one, definitely, and I'm glad I could get it."
Porter not close to naming a closer for Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With a little more than two weeks remaining before the start of the regular season, Astros manager Bo Porter said Sunday the team still isn't any closer to identifying a closer.
Porter's preference is to leave camp with one person handling the closing job, but he didn't rule out having a closer by committee to start the year. Josh Fields closed as a rookie for a bit in the second half of last year, but veteran Chad Qualls has the most experience in the role with the D-backs in 2009-10.
"Let's just say, I would hope that within the next two weeks from a staff standpoint we feel confident in one of those guys to make that decision," Porter said. "If we left Spring Training today, I feel like it would be a closer-by-committee situation, and as the course of the season goes along, the player will tell you who should man that position."
Porter did say hard-throwing right-hander Anthony Bass has emerged as a candidate to close, along with Fields, Qualls, Matt Albers and lefty Kevin Chapman.
"It will still shake out as we finish the rest of this spring and as we get into the course of the season," Porter said. "We have several guys down there that we [think] are capable of manning that position, and I think it will be based on an in-game situation based on matchups of who we would use that particular day, and hopefully at some point of the season, we have one of those guys take the bull by the horn and man the ninth inning each and every night."