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ASTROS SPRING TRAINING OPENER
Astros at Phillies
From Clearwater, Fla.
Feb. 23, noon
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - The training camp of the Houston Astros is a land of opportunity.
That's what happens to a team that puts together consecutive seasons with the worst record in the major leagues. And after another winter of trading veterans and their contracts to load up on prospects, the Astros believe they are truly starting a new era as they prepare for Saturday's first full-squad workout of spring training.
"It's a great opportunity," said pitching prospect Alex White. "This is a really young team, and we're going up from where we're at."
They don't figure to go too far up in the American League West this season, but the measure of their progress will come a year from now, according to new manager Bo Porter.
"As you look at our roster, we don't have many established major league players. That's why there is so much opportunity available," Porter said. "When we stand here at this time next year, I want that number of established players to be greatly increased and a limited amount of competition as far as who will fill those starting roles."
Competition will be abundant this spring - at third base, shortstop, first base, all over the outfield and all throughout the pitching staff after starters Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles.
The Astros, who have Major League Baseball's smallest payroll, did sign some veterans over the winter, including first baseman/DH Carlos Pena and left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, both aged 34, outfielder Rick Ankiel, 33, and pitchers Jose Veras, 32, and Philip Humber, 30.
More typical of the players competing for roster spots here are pitchers like White and Brad Peacock, highly regarded right-handers in their mid-twenties who were traded both this winter and last winter.
"I kind of had that feeling (of betrayal) the first time, but now I know it's a business and it's about looking forward," said White, who was rated by Baseball America as Cleveland's No. 2 pitching prospect before being traded to Colorado. The Rockies traded him to the Astros on Dec. 4.
Peacock, who pitched five years in the Washington organization, was listed as Oakland's No. 1 pitching prospect as recently as Feb. 4 when he left his Florida home for spring training in Arizona.
"I got the phone call in Mississippi, so I had to turn around and come back to Florida," he said. "I was definitely going to have to prove myself over there just like I have to do here. So it's the same thing - a friendly competition. I'm very excited."
And that's the idea.
"I think there's a lot of excitement about the opportunity to make the club," said general manager Jeff Luhnow. "We have 61 players in camp, and I think all 61 feel like they could make the club.
"I think that's exciting. There's definitely a vibe between the new look, the new colors, the new environment, a lot of new faces. There's an energy that I can sense. It's palpable. I think people understand now what the plan is and how they fit in. There seems to be a lot of genuine enthusiasm and energy around it."