6/25/2014 9:01 P.M. ET
Springer featured on Sports Illustrated cover
By Brian McTaggart and Mike Vernon / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- When George Springer got to Minute Maid Park on Wednesday morning, someone had a message for him -- "Hey George, you're on the cover of Sports Illustrated."
"It's an honor," Springer said. "As a kid you always see Sports Illustrated. I'm happy about the article, about the team and the stuff that's been said about us as an organization."
The cover features a photo of Springer swinging in the Astros' rainbow uniforms from the 1970s. Above him reads, "Baseball's great experiment." Springer said the team doesn't see it as an experiment. While he didn't go along with that line, he did like seeing the headline's prediction, "Your 2017 World Series Champs."
"Anytime they predict you to win the World Series is a good time for me," Springer said. "They're recognizing what the organization has done and how far this team has come."
Springer is the fourth Astros player to be featured on the cover since 1981, and the first position player to be featured in the organization's history. Roger Clemens last appeared on the cover in 2004, Randy Johnson had the honor in 1998 and J.R. Richard in 1981.
The cover says the Astros are going beyond Moneyball to build baseball's next big thing. That credit is directed toward general manager Jeff Luhnow.
"If there's attention brought to the city of Houston and to the organization of the Astros, that's a positive," Luhnow said. "Obviously everything depends on how we do in the field."
Astros waiting to finalize deal with top pick Aiken
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday he had nothing new to report on contract negotiations with No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, who arrived in Houston from San Diego on Monday with hopes of finalizing a deal.
Aiken, a 17-year-old left-handed pitcher, was taken by the Astros out of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, making him only the third left-handed high school pitcher to be selected with the first overall pick.
"The signing deadline for this year's drafted players is July 18, so there's no rush," Luhnow said. "When talking about our first pick, our thinking is he's not going to pitch a lot of innings this year anyway, so there's really no rush to get anything done."
MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis reported earlier this month that the Astros and Aiken had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, which would tie the record for the largest given to a high school pitcher. The Pirates gave Jameson Taillon a $6.5-million signing bonus after taking him with the second pick in 2010.
Aiken posted a 7-0 record and a 1.06 ERA in 11 starts in his senior season. He was a 2014 Perfect Game first team All-American and an All-Region first team in California. He led Team USA to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September by winning both of his starts -- including a championship-game performance against Japan in which he struck out 10 and allowed one run over seven innings.
Kemp becomes first 2013 Draft pick to reach Double-A
HOUSTON -- The Astros promoted 5-foot-6 second baseman Tony Kemp to Double-A Corpus Christi from Class A Lancaster on Wednesday, making him the first Astros pick from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft to reach Double-A.
Kemp, taken in the fifth round out of Vanderbilt, was hitting .336 with 79 runs, 19 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 37 RBIs and 28 steals in 72 games for the JetHawks. He has also worked 45 walks against 35 strikeouts for a .433 OBP and a .901 OPS.
Kemp leads the California League in hits (99), OBP and runs scored (79). He slots among the circuit leaders in stolen bases (second), batting average (third) and walks (tied, fourth).
"Kemp is well-deserving of the promotion to Double-A, and it's going to be fun for the fans of Corpus to get to see him, and he's that much closer to being in Houston," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's an exciting player."
Luhnow said Conrad Gregor, Kemp's teammate at Vanderbilt who was drafted in the fourth round last year, could wind up in Corpus Christi soon, too. He entered Wednesday hitting .391 with six homers and 22 RBIs and a 1.152 OPS in his first 24 games at Lancaster.
Singleton wears Hoes' old uniform No. 28
HOUSTON -- When Jon Singleton signed his long-term contract to play for the Astros, L.J. Hoes saw his old number had a new home.
Singleton would wear No. 28, which is a number Hoes has tattooed on his back in honor of his uncle, who was killed by a drunk driver. Hoes' uncle wore the number playing baseball and football in high school.
Hoes is good friends with Singleton, so when Hoes was called back up to the Major Leagues on Wednesday in place of Robbie Grossman, who was optioned down to Triple-A Oklahoma City, he got a chance to call out Singleton for the number swap.
"Oh yeah," Hoes said. "This guy over here took my number."
"That was a miscommunication," Singleton said. "No one told me."
Hoes wanted to be clear that he's not upset with Singleton for wearing the number. Besides, he has a new one now, as Hoes will wear No. 0, and he was told he'd be the first Astros player to ever wear zero.
"No hard feelings," Hoes said. "That's my buddy. It's fine, we've been joking around."
Altuve piles up hits while making All-Star case
HOUSTON -- Wherever Jose Altuve goes, the hits follow.
Following a road trip in which Altuve went 13-for-24 (.542), he started a nine-game homestand going 2-for-5 against the Braves. It was his fifth multi-hit game in his last seven games.
Houston manager Bo Porter had come out recently in his support for Altuve being an All-Star, as the Astros second basemen is currently fourth in the voting.
"I can appreciate all the support of all staff and the guys," Altuve said. "The only thing I think right now is about winning the games we have before the break."
Altuve's 932,978 votes trail Robinson Cano of the Mariners (2,007,055), Ian Kinsler of the Tigers (1,338,272) and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox (1,264,329).
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
• Right-hander Anthony Bass, who has been on the disabled list since May 11 with a right intercostal strain, could rejoin the club next week, Lunhow said. Bass could may need just one more outing on his rehab assignment at Class A Quad Cities, but that his velocity is up.
• The Astros activated right-hander Asher Wojciechowski from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. He was on a rehab assignment with the RedHawks after dealing with a strained lat all spring.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.