KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter took steps Sunday to make sure his players would be in proper defensive position the next time the team employs a shift on a left-handed hitter and sees a baserunner heading toward third base.
In Saturday's win over the Phillies, Chase Utley was able to go from first to third base on a ground ball hit to the right side of the infield while the Astros were employing a shift on Ryan Howard. The pitcher was supposed to cover third base, but didn't.
"It was actually something we worked on in practice just the day before it happened," Porter said. "We addressed it as a staff this morning and in our meetings and when we got the guys out here today. Before we got into the fundamental of cutoffs and relays, we addressed it again with the pitchers."
The Astros won't be shy about using the shift during the regular season, Porter said. He said if the spray charts and data show a player is likely to hit the ball to a certain portion of the field, they will align their defense properly.
"We pride ourselves from a defensive standpoint on fielding the portion of the field the guy has the greatest capability of hitting the ball to," he said.
Stassi likely to miss spring games with sports hernia
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros catcher Max Stassi, one of three players acquired in the Feb. 4 trade that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland, will soon head to Philadelphia to see a specialist about a possible sports hernia. Stassi said the injury likely means he won't play in a game this spring.
Stassi has been dealing with issues to his left oblique for more than a year, and says it's time to get it cleared up.
"It's been nagging and some days it's worse than others and I'm going to get it cleared up, and if it's as mild as they think it is, I'll be ready a couple of games after Opening Day," Stassi said. "It's tough coming over here with the opportunity that is presented and joining a new organization. I've got to take care of my body and I've got to get ready for the regular season and go out and play hard."
Stassi, 22, was acquired to help increase the Astros' depth at catcher in the Minor Leagues, which has been lacking. Drafted by Oakland in the fourth round in 2009, he's a career .246 hitter with 30 homers and 123 RBIs in 239 career Minor League games. He spent the last two years at Class A Stockton.
"It's something I've been dealing with for a year and a half and I've played through it, and we think it's been leading to the oblique injury and the instability in the hip region," Stassi said. "So we're going to get it looked at and get the answers and move forward from there."
Meanwhile, right-hander Hector Ambriz, who sprained an ankle about 10 days ago, has thrown in the bullpen without any pain and should throw live batting practice in the next day or so. That would be his final step before getting into games.
Former first-rounder Crowe feeding off Astros' energy
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Trevor Crowe, a former first-round Draft pick of the Indians, is in Astros camp this year as a non-roster invitee, trying to win a spot in the outfield. He's played parts of three Major League seasons with Cleveland, hitting .245 with 34 doubles, six triples, three homers, 55 RBIs and 29 steals in 205 games.
"I'm very excited," Crowe said. "The thing that gets me going is the guys we have in camp here. It's a great, young, energetic group. Our workouts so far have been awesome, and just the leadership of the coaching staff has been tremendous. It's been perfect."
Crowe says he's feeding off the youthful energy in the camp. He's not a veteran by any means, but at 29 years old is among the older group in camp.
"It's always a nice fit when you see guys come in with enthusiasm, with emotion," he said. "The teams I've been a part of in the big leagues have been younger, but the majority of the guys have experience and they have their defined roles. Here, a lot of situations are up for grabs, and the leaders are the younger guys. That doesn't mean your team can't be successful or have an impact. It's just a different situation."