Hinch tweaking spring approach due to '17 Classic

Hinch tweaking spring approach due to '17 Classic

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The upcoming World Baseball Classic is an exciting time for those participating, but it can also be somewhat of a challenge for managers trying to prepare their teams for the 2017 season.

Eight players from Astros camp will cut into their Spring Training for the opportunity to represent their respective countries in the event.

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Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fan's phone honors Keuchel, who returns favor

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Fan's phone honors Keuchel, who returns favor

Spring Training is finally here, and the games that count are just around the corner. Starting rotations are beginning to take shape. Mike Trout is running around with weights on his back.

As a fan, it's also time to prepare. Dust off your lucky hat. Make sure your shirsey collection has been properly updated. And make sure to follow the lead of one intrepid Astros fan, who brought his love for Dallas Keuchel all the way to his iPhone.

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Peacock enjoying comforts of home this spring

Peacock enjoying comforts of home this spring

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Right-hander Brad Peacock is relaxed and ready to make a push to become the Astros' fifth starter.

Born and raised in Wellington, Fla., just a few miles west of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Peacock is enjoying the proximity to the Astros' new Spring Training location.

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Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hinch shares pitching plan for first 5 games

Peacock, Rodgers, Musgrove, Fiers and Devenski slated to start

Hinch shares pitching plan for first 5 games

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch on Wednesday laid out his starting pitchers for the team's first five Grapefruit League games.

Brad Peacock will start Saturday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., Brady Rodgers on Sunday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Joe Musgrove on Monday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Mike Fiers on Tuesday against the Nationals in the first game at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Chris Devenski on Wednesday against the Nationals in the team's official spring home opener.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Crane hosting dinner for Astros players, staff

Crane hosting dinner for Astros players, staff

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros players and staff were invited by owner Jim Crane to take part in a dinner Wednesday night at his Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., which sits about 30 minutes north of the team's new Spring Training complex.

Crane led the charge for the Astros to move from Kissimmee to West Palm Beach, where they share Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the Nationals. In the past, Crane has addressed the team prior to the first full day of workouts, but he saved his pep talk for the dinner this year.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros offer range of opinions on free passes

Astros offer range of opinions on free passes

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- While Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he will reserve comment on the reported changes to how an intentional walk is implemented until he meets with senior vice president of baseball operations Peter Woodfork on Friday, his players had mixed opinions.

Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Tuesday evening that rather than have a pitcher lob four pitches to the catcher to intentionally walk a hitter, managers will signal from the dugout to have the hitter just take first base.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

AL-inclusive: Everyone has eyes on West title

PHOENIX -- Jerry Dipoto knows that the Astros are favored to win the American League West, and if baseball analysts aren't talking about Jose Altuve's budding powerhouse, they're focused on the Rangers. Why not? They've won the AL West two years in a row.

Dipoto hides his confidence with a sheepish grin.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Oswalt preaches durability to Astros pitchers

Former righty stressing preparation to reach 200-inning mark

Oswalt preaches durability to Astros pitchers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Roy Oswalt, whose 143 wins in 10 years with the Astros are second in club history to only Larry Dierker (144), was back in an Astros uniform on Tuesday for the first time since the club traded him to the Phillies halfway through the 2010 season -- a move which essentially began the franchise's rebuild.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch invited Oswalt to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as a guest instructor.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tucker feeling good, continues rehab process

Tucker feeling good, continues rehab process

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Five months removed from undergoing right shoulder surgery, Astros outfielder Preston Tucker is progressing as normal, but he has been limited to hitting flips during the first week of spring camp. He's been able to do all the defensive drills, though.

Tucker underwent surgery on Sept. 21 to repair the acromion, a bony projection on the shoulder blade. He appeared in 48 games for the Astros last season, hitting .164 with four homers and eight RBIs from the left side of the plate. Tucker didn't get his arm out of a sling until November and he wasn't able to lift the arm over his head until the start of 2017.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Correa easing into drills after oral surgery

Correa easing into drills after oral surgery

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Still recovering from having four wisdom teeth removed, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is slowly working his way into baseball drills. On Tuesday, Correa worked out at the team's complex, where he took about 50 swings in the cage and said he felt good.

"I'm still a little sore, obviously, because it was kind of like a surgery, but I'm feeling better. It's pain I can tolerate, and I can go out there and do most of the work."

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Are Gattis and McCann planning a 'Parent Trap?'

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Are Gattis and McCann planning a 'Parent Trap?'

Were Evan Gattis and Brian McCann accidentally separated at birth? Are they merely the result of top secret human cloning? Was the Astros acquisition of McCann all a ploy to trick the opposition using top secret subterfuge? Just one week into Spring Training and the baseball world already can't separate the two players. 

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Reed looking to seize first-base opportunity

After 1st taste of Majors, 23-year-old spent offseason working on swing, agility

Reed looking to seize first-base opportunity

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He was named Indiana high school player of the year and won the Golden Spikes Award in 2014 as the top amateur player in the country. He led all the Minor Leagues in home runs, RBIs and OPS in 2015 en route to being named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year.

With all of those honors on his resume, AJ Reed showed up at spring camp last year ranked as the club's top prospect and bursting with potential. His arrival in Kissimmee, Fla., made news, and fans immediately clamored to see what he could do in the big leagues.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ryan: Astros ready to 'earn it' on field every day

Ryan: Astros ready to 'earn it' on field every day

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- You'll be hard-pressed to find a more hands-on president of business operations in baseball than Reid Ryan, who one minute is greeting fans in the stands and the next is doing interviews with the press on the field.

The 45-year-old Ryan was named Astros president on May 17, 2013.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCullers' new gloves honor friend Fernandez

McCullers' new gloves honor friend Fernandez

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. took the opportunity to get some new gloves for the start of Spring Training to pay tribute to his close friend, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident last year.

McCullers picked up a specially ordered glove early Monday, the day in which representatives from Wilson came to Astros camp to deliver gloves. McCullers picked up an A2K model, which is what Fernandez used, that was Astros orange with a small pinch of blue.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros pitchers throw first live BP of spring

Astros pitchers throw first live BP of spring

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There's nothing like the sound of a thrown ball hitting the bat, unless you're a pitcher. Regardless, the Astros' first round of live batting practice was another step closer to pitchers being ready to throw in exhibition games, which begin Saturday.

Among the pitchers to throw batting practice to hitters on Monday on the back fields at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches were Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, Luke Gregerson, James Hoyt, Brad Peacock, Jandel Gustave and Tony Sipp.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Marisnick puts in extra time refining swing

Astros OF solid defensively and on bases, but hitting has been issue

Marisnick puts in extra time refining swing

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There has never been a question about Jake Marisnick's defensive ability and baserunning, both of which are at elite levels. His swing continues to be a "work in progress," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, and the 25-year-old outfielder admitted Sunday he spent more time refining his swing this winter than ever before.

Despite the offseason additions of outfielders Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Carlos Beltran, who will get most of his at-bats at designated hitter, Marisnick remains a key piece for the Astros. He's their best defensive outfielder, and if he can come around at the plate, it will be hard to keep him off the field.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis says sore shoulder feeling better

Astros catcher plays catch, not limited in hitting drills

Gattis says sore shoulder feeling better

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros catcher Evan Gattis played catch at short distances as he tries to recuperate from a sore right shoulder that forced him to get an anti-inflammatory injection last week.

Gattis, who was limited last spring after undergoing hernia surgery, has been catching bullpen sessions the past few days, but hasn't been throwing the ball back to the pitcher. A coach has been set up next to him so he can give him the ball and allow him to throw it back.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feliz has edge as multi-inning relief option

Hinch says hard-throwing Astros righty's ability to miss bats key to success

Feliz has edge as multi-inning relief option

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When right-hander Michael Feliz is elevating his fastball and pitching with confidence, he can be a devastating member of the Astros' bullpen. Witness last year when he posted a 0.54 ERA, struck out 26 in 16 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .074 in 10 appearances in May.

Feliz, 23, appears to be a near-lock as a long-relief option following his up-and-down rookie season in which he threw 65 innings, allowed 32 earned runs and struck out 95. He established a club rookie record with 13.15 strikeouts per nine innings.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Central Missouri, Texas A&M-Kingsville go undefeated in Houston Winter Invitational

HOUSTON -- Central Missouri left Minute Maid Park feeling a lot better about its baseball team than it did a year ago.

On Sunday, the Mules capped off an outstanding weekend in the Houston Winter Invitational with a 3-2 walk-off win over Chico State. The Mules went 3-0 in the invitational.

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Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCann building rapport with Astros pitchers

Veteran catcher plans on extra time behind plate at camp

McCann building rapport with Astros pitchers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As he's done in each of his three springs as the manager of the Astros, A.J. Hinch has a station where pitchers get together with catchers and tell them about their arsenal, what they like to throw and their game plan.

Those exercises are a little more important this year for newcomer Brian McCann, who said he will catch more this spring than he usually does to get up to speed on his pitching staff. McCann, acquired in a deal from the Yankees in November, already has studied video of every pitcher on the 40-man roster, but nothing matches getting behind the plate.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gurriel begins full-time work at first base

Cuban infielder has spent majority of career at third

Gurriel begins full-time work at first base

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has said his team's offseason additions actually started in July, when the club signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a five-year, $47.5 million deal. A third baseman by trade, Gurriel was forced to move around last year after Alex Bregman's solid rookie debut at third.

The emergence of Bregman, the signings of outfielder Josh Reddick and designated hitter Carlos Beltran, and the trade for catcher Brian McCann have deepened Houston's lineup, with Gurriel moving to first base -- a revolving door for the Astros the past few years.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Beltran arrives, eyes October baseball with Astros

Respected vet excited to mesh with young, rising stars

Beltran arrives, eyes October baseball with Astros

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Pretty much everything has changed from the last time Carlos Beltran wore an Astros uniform. That was in 2004, when the Astros were in the National League, had a different color scheme and uniforms, still had spring camp in Kissimmee, Fla., and had different ownership.

When Beltran reported to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Friday morning as a member of the 2017 Astros, about the only familiar face he saw was Adam Everett, a Minor League infield coordinator who was a shortstop on the '04 team on which Beltran dazzled with his memorable postseason run.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Javelinas, Mules remain unbeaten at Minute Maid

Six-team Houston Winter Invitational concludes Sunday

HOUSTON -- Texas A&M-Kingsville came into the 2017 Houston Winter Invitational as the only unbeaten team among six NCAA Division II baseball teams competing over three days at Minute Maid Park in the Houston Winter Invitational

The Javelinas continued their fine play Saturday, winning for the second straight day at the Astros' home venue, beating Arkansas-Fort Smith, 6-1, behind six scoreless innings from starter Isaiah Lybarger in the first of three games played Saturday. In the second game, Central Missouri beat Tarleton State for its second win of the tournament, and in the finale, Chico State downed St. Mary's.

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Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCullers happy to learn curve won't hurt elbow

Astros relying on righty to be healthy, effective after rough '16

McCullers happy to learn curve won't hurt elbow

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The curveball has been Lance McCullers' bread and butter in his brief career. When it's on, it's a dangerous weapon to complement his 95-mph fastball. So much so that McCullers threw the curve on 41 percent of his pitches last year.

There have been concerns, however, throwing so many curveballs could mean some wear and tear on McCullers' young elbow, and last year's disabled list stint with elbow discomfort didn't make anyone breathe any easier. McCullers began last year on the DL with shoulder soreness and adjusted his mechanics to compensate.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel throws 'free and easy' to McCann

Former top Astros prospect Singleton in camp as non-roster invitee

Keuchel throws 'free and easy' to McCann

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Ace lefty Dallas Keuchel, who was away from the Astros on Thursday with an illness, threw in the bullpen Friday afternoon to new catcher Brian McCann, with manager A.J. Hinch watching. Keuchel missed the final month of last season with shoulder inflammation, but he has thrown off the mound six times, though this was the first time at camp.

"First bullpen [session] of the camp and I wanted to tell McCann what I wanted to accomplish here in the next couple of weeks, just start with the fastball in and out and throw the changeup," Keuchel said. "I threw the first couple of cutters, but really focusing on location right now and try to pinpoint that before I come up with the slider and start breaking that in."

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Winter Invitational brings baseball back to Minute Maid

College tournament hosts first games without Tal's Hill in center field

HOUSTON -- After the first day of the 2017 Houston Winter Invitational, Central Missouri has already guaranteed itself a better showing than a year ago, when the Mules lost all three of their games at Minute Maid Park.

In the last of three games involving six NCAA Division II teams on Friday, the Mules used a four-run eighth inning to defeat Arkansas-Fort Smith, 8-4.

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Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Giles getting his groove back with Astros

Giles getting his groove back with Astros

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There's a noticeable difference in the way closer Ken Giles navigates his way around the clubhouse these days. Giles is clearly much more comfortable in his skin and his surroundings after a tumultuous first year in Houston in which his early-season struggles led to stress and self-doubt.

Following an eventful year-plus in which the Phillies dealt him to the Astros, he got married and had his first child, Giles is ready to put it all together on the field this year. Astros manager A.J. Hinch has said Giles will close in most situations in the regular season.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Shoulder an issue for Keuchel throughout '16

Astros lefty regrets not letting club know sooner; feels 'brand new' this year

Shoulder an issue for Keuchel throughout '16

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Being a competitor, Dallas Keuchel couldn't allow himself to not take the ball every fifth day. He knew his shoulder wasn't feeling well at the start of last spring and -- coming off a season in which he won the American League Cy Young Award -- he also knew his team was counting on him.

Keuchel, the Astros' ace lefty, admitted he tried to pitch through shoulder discomfort all of last season, a season in which he underperformed. He went 9-12 with a 4.55 ERA in 26 starts before finally being shut down in late August with left shoulder inflammation. Looking back, a contrite Keuchel said Wednesday he wished he would have said something about the pain earlier in the season.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Springer bests DeShields in friendly Super Bowl wager

Rangers OF, a Falcons fan, has to wear Patriots jersey to camp

Springer bests DeShields in friendly Super Bowl wager

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Although he won't be in Arizona to see it, Astros outfielder George Springer is reveling in the fact that Delino DeShields, his close friend and former teammate, will have to wear a Tom Brady jersey at Rangers camp in Surprise, Ariz., this spring.

Springer and DeShields -- who were both Astros first-round Draft picks and were Minor League roommates -- attended Super Bowl LI in Houston earlier this month. Springer, who grew up in Connecticut, is a Patriots fan. DeShields, who's from Atlanta, is a Falcons fan.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arb hearing process intriguing for McHugh

Astros righty happy with result, says both sides were fair

Arb hearing process intriguing for McHugh

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Going through the arbitration process was an eye-opener for Astros pitcher Collin McHugh, who will make $3.85 million this year after winning a hearing before a three-person panel on Friday. McHugh said he had no hard feelings against the Astros, who offered to pay him $3.35 million.

"It's a really important part of the collective bargaining process, not only for players, but for teams as well," said McHugh, who is the team's player representative to the union. "To be able to kind of go through it and see it firsthand, I count it as an honor. Not many guys get the chance to go through something like that. It played out the way it played out and I think we can move on and get onto baseball things, which we're really excited about. To see how the engine works from the inside, it was a really interesting process."

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.