The Astros have high expectations for 2014, and they are extremely motivated to prove they can improve on their franchise-record 111 losses in 2013 as the team remains in rebuilding mode.
Several players have been working out at Minute Maid Park throughout the offseason -- some regularly and some just popping in when they are in town. Others have been working out in their hometowns or elsewhere. Here is what some of the players have been doing during the offseason and specifically what they’ve been working on and trying to improve:
Catcher Jason Castro (2013 All-Star)
“I’m back to the weight I want to be, strength aspect, how I felt going in. Last year I felt like I was at a pretty good place. I felt strong, was ready for the season and I already feel like I'm back at that spot. We still have another month, so I'm happy with the progress that I made and where that means I’ll be when spring training comes.”
On goals for 2014:
“Consistency. One thing I learned getting a chance to play every day is how to be consistent and what it takes to be consistent on a daily basis at the catcher's position. I learned a ton last year just getting out there and experiencing it every day again. Will definitely use that this year and hit the ground running.”
Pitcher Jarred Cosart
“I wanted to gain a little bit (weight), which I have. As far as being in shape with what Jake (Beiting) has done here, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in along with all the other guys. It’s exciting to go in there feeling on top of your game. I got a little tired at the end of last year. Also, we picked up the running a little bit. I think that’s going to help.
“I’m ready to see if I can improve on little things like throwing more strikes, cutting back on walks. I have to execute better especially early in counts with my fastball and then got to be more consistent with my off-speed stuff if I want to see my walks go down and strikeout numbers go up like they were in the minor leagues.”
Infielder Brett Wallace
“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. So, there are definitely positives, but I think there is room for improvement and more consistency, so I'm just working on taking the next step and being able to do it more often.
“A lot of it was stuff we kind of figured out towards the end of the year with my hands and just kind of keeping me in rhythm and getting my separation consistent. (John) Mallee, our hitting coach, and I really talked about that towards the end of the year – just kind of understanding where I need to be with my hands. This is an opportunity to just work on it every day to the point where it's second nature, so I don't have to think about it anymore.”
Infielder Matt Dominguez
“Get a little quicker, faster, things like that and just having better at-bats consistently and not carrying the bats over and taking one bat at a time, one pitch at a time – just be more consistent with that and to make sure I have a plan going up there. They always say a bad plan is better than no plan at all, so just trying to realize what they’re (pitchers) doing to me and have a good approach and just have good timing.”
Infielder Jose Altuve (All-Star in 2012)
“I want to get more on base. I think that’s going to help my team and that’s going to help the guys behind me – the guys that can bat the ball – and that way we can score more runs.”
Pitcher Josh Zeid
“I’m not trying to change any of my pitches. I'm a three-pitch pitcher – out of the bullpen is maybe one more than you necessarily need, but I'm actually trying to work on strength conditioning and just kind of becoming a better athlete out there. By the end of the year you never want to get tired, you never want to feel any amount of fatigue, so I'm in the weight room with Jake (Beiting) and Alex (Pounds) and we're really just working on strength and conditioning.”
Outfielder Robbie Grossman
“My batting left-handed, switch-hitting, just working on little things that will make me better over the course of the whole year…and to be more consistent.”
Catcher Max Stassi
“Just mainly trying to stay healthy is a big thing. It's something I can't control but that's kind of been my setback is injuries, so just staying healthy and being out on the field. That's the only way you can get better at this game is being healthy and playing the game.
“I’ve been trying to work on strength training, conditioning. I've been doing a lot of sand work back home – I've been running in sand. It's kind of different, a little easier on your muscles and stuff like that, but that’s mainly it. I just started hitting and throwing, so I've been getting back into baseball activities.”
Pitcher Paul Clemens
“I’ve been watching a lot of basketball, working out, throwing the baseball around, trying to get myself busy. My wife is finishing up an internship, so it’s me, myself and I for now, but it’s good for me to reflect on the season, work hard and get ready for this year.
“I feel good. I want all my pitches to improve this year – sharper, crisper, better command. I’ve only thrown a couple bullpens. I’m moving the ball in and out well. I’ve thrown a couple of changeups and I'm right where I want to be.”
Outfielder L.J. Hoes
“I’ve been working out in San Diego. Adam Jones is my best friend so I’ve been out there working out with him and just talking to him and trying to pick his brain. You know he is an All-Star, so I’m just trying to get out there and learn from him and apply some things that he does and apply those to my game. Now I’m back in Houston working out hanging out with Robbie (Grossman) a little bit and we're starting to push each other a little bit trying to get ready for the season.”
Pitcher Scott Feldman (signed a three-year contract, $30 million contract during the offseason)
“To be a consistent pitcher, throw as many innings as I can, stay healthy, make all my starts, try to make 200-innings mark.”
Outfielder George Springer (one of the Astros' top prospects)
“I’ve been doing the exact same thing – lift, run, throw, getting i the cage, hitting and getting my strength back and getting prepared to play.”
Pitcher Mark Appel (Astros’ 2013 No. 1 overall pick in the draft who is from Houston)
“It's been great. I've been able to live with my family and see them on a day-to-day basis, which is awesome, and I've been able to work out at Minute Maid Park as well, work out with some of the major league guys, local guys that live here and even some out-of-state guys that have been working out here. It's prepared me for spring training and kind of what to expect as I go out to Kissimmee.
On preparing for spring training:
“I’ve been working hard every day and doing the things I need to do – bullpen stuff like that. There is a lot of work I need to do before I go out to Kissimmee. I haven't had the worries of school but I also haven’t had the structure of having team practices, so it's been a little different going through my first pro offseason. It will help me for future pro offseasons, so I'm excited.”
Pitcher Mike Foltynewicz (one of the Astros' top pitching prospects)
“I’m trying to do the same routine that I have been doing the last two years because I have been having good success with that. I’ve just been going off the Astros’ program they send me. Just do that and go to the gym, throw when I need to. I’ve been working on my command more, my breaking ball – getting that sharper, changeup – to be able to throw it on any count; getting pieces back together.”