KISSIMMEE, Fla. — New manager, new league, a roster full of new faces, and even new uniforms.
The Houston Astros have changed about as much as a baseball team can change in the aftermath of the two worst seasons in franchise history. Whether they can start winning more games after back-to-back 100-loss seasons is now the big question.
“We’ve talked about change throughout the organization, from the time (owner) Jim Crane has taken over the ballclub and all the hires he has made,” manager Bo Porter said Monday before conducting an informal workout for pitchers and catchers. “This year (the uniform change) kind of sets the tone, because they visually see things have changed. And when you realize that things have changed, you first realize that they’re never going to be the same.
“We made these changes because we want guys to understand that we have to play with a different energy, we have to play with a different focus, we have to prepare differently because we want different outcomes.”
After losing 106 games and then 107 last season, the Astros will conduct their first organized spring training workout Tuesday. Rather than the familiar deep red color scheme, the Astros will have a blue-and-orange look like they had in some of their early days.
“When I heard we were changing colors, I was hoping this is what we’d go back to,” catcher Jason Castro said. “It’s given us a little bit of a facelift, and it’s something new and fun for everybody.”
Philip Humber, one of the new pitchers brought in to compete for one of two open spots in the Astros rotation, appreciates the change for the sake of change.
“You come in and get to wear the new uniforms, but at the same time that’s just window dressing; it’s about what we do on the field,” Humber said. “I think that’s part of it, but like the new signs you see around the clubhouse, our focus needs to be about the process. We’re reshaping this organization, and we’re excited to be a part of having a chance to start a new tradition, and hopefully a winning one.”
That will take a lot of work, as Porter acknowledged, and it may be a long time before the Astros start making a splash in the American League.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the American League, National League, Little League, T-ball, you have to work on the fundamentals,” Porter said. “I am a firm believer that anything that can make you lose a baseball game is major because when it happens, they’re going to say that was the biggest play of the game.”
Right-handers Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyle, who started a combined 86 games for the Astros last season, are penciled into Porter’s first rotation. Humber will compete with several newcomers, including Alex White, Erik Bedard and John Ely, for one of the other two spots.
Bullpen spots are also open, and there will be plenty of competition all over the outfield and at first base, shortstop and third base. Porter stressed that the competition will go well behind spring training. It’s all part of the new attitude.
“I wouldn’t say the attitude was bad here,” said Harrell, who earned 11 of the Astros’ 55 wins in 2012. “It was just that it wasn’t necessarily a winning attitude where they expected to win, and that’s what we’re trying to change.”