Everyone knows the Astros are in rebuilding mode as they prepare for their second year in the American League West.
But it doesn’t make losing any easier. For each of the past three seasons, Houston has lost over 100 games, setting a franchise record for most losses each of those years. With that, comes a lot of reflection and self-assessment during the offseason as a handful of players try make improvements during their winter workouts at Minute Maid Park.
“A lot of emotion for sure going into this year, but I think this season in all was a perfect example of how to continue through with your ups and downs and just keep going and hopefully the good prevails,” said left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer, who went 4-5 with a 2.24 ERA as a starter in his rookie season and was named the team's pitcher of the year. “I finished up strong but what most people didn't see was my struggle in Triple A for the first half or behind doors – what I was working on, the emotion like I said that goes behind it. So, for me it was an up and down season but for me, I finished strong and that's what it's all about.”
“I think there were some good things to take towards the end, getting a chance to come back and show some things that I worked on in driving the baseball to the whole field, using the right field a little more this year,” said infielder Brett Wallace, who hit .221 and had 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 2013. “So, there are definitely positives, but I think there is room for improvement and more consistency there, so I'm just working on taking the next step and being able to do it more often.”
“It was just a typical baseball season – you have your ups and downs and it's how you bounce back from when you're down,” said outfielder Robbie Grossman, a Houston native who made his Major League debut with the Astros in 2013 and hit .268 with 4 home runs and 21 RBI. “I'm just excited to build on what I accomplished last year and getting ready for this next season.”
“Obviously, any time you get to pitch in the major leagues, it's a great experience, it's a learning experience,” said relief pitcher Josh Zeid, who made 25 appearances for the Astros over the last two months of the season as a rookie. “You're facing the best guys in all of baseball, so at any point, if you find yourself competing and actually succeeding, it gives you a whole bunch of confidence for the next year and that's where I was in September. It ended up turning out really well for me. Obviously, the team didn't play as well as we wanted to as a whole but I think going forward, we have a lot to look forward to.”
With several offseason moves, particularly much-needed help in the bullpen, and one of the best farm systems in Major League Baseball, the players have high expectations for the 2014 season.
“I think it's to take the next step as a team,” Wallace said. “We showed with our young pitching when they came up in the second half how good they can be and how we can compete every day, and I think now it's a matter of continuing to do that, continuing to add to that young core and continuing to try to take that next step and get more and more wins.”
“I think we're in a better place than we were last year,” Grossman said. “I’m just excited to get on the field and let the chips fall where they may and just play.”
“We're trying to win ball games, that's the main thing up here,” said catcher Max Stassi, who was the Astros’ top catching prospect that made his major league debut on Aug. 20 but was hurt in his second game with the club and only made one more appearance in 2013. “The group of guys they got coming in, big free agent signings, big assets to this organization – it's a bright future here, very bright future.”