Gonzalez leads deep bench bunch

Marisnick, Tucker also give Hinch lots of flexibility

Gonzalez leads deep bench bunch

This is the last of a six-part Around The Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. This one: the bench.

HOUSTON -- They have to be versatile and they have to be ready at a moment's notice. They have to be capable of playing every day for a couple of weeks if a teammate gets injured, while also knowing they could be riding the bench for a few days in a row, too.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Do your mascot homework with the Orbit Prank Power Rankings

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Do your mascot homework with the Orbit Prank Power Rankings

Unless you've been living under a particularly baseball-averse rock for the past 12 months, you know about the Houston Astros. They're young, they're exciting, they have Carlos Correa , and after coming within six outs from an ALCS appearance last season, the arrow is only pointing up. (Did we mention they have Carlos Correa?)

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Giles, Fister have chance to make big impact

Right-handers among group of fresh faces who will be at Astros' camp

Giles, Fister have chance to make big impact

HOUSTON -- Considering the success the Astros had a year ago, they didn't have many holes to fill in the offseason, and two of those needs were addressed by re-signing outfielder Colby Rasmus (he accepted a qualifying offer) and left-hander Tony Sipp.

The Astros filled their biggest offseason need by trading for closer Ken Giles of the Phillies, and last month they reached a one-year deal with veteran right-hander Doug Fister to bolster the rotation. Giles and Fister figure to be the two newcomers to play the biggest roles on the club in 2016. Part II of the Astros' Spring Training preview takes a look at the new faces in camp:

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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' surgery frees up spring at-bats for others

Duffy, White, Reed and Moran among candidates to get more opportunities at camp

Gattis' surgery frees up spring at-bats for others

HOUSTON -- The loss of designated hitter Evan Gattis, perhaps until the start of the regular season or beyond following surgery to repair a sports hernia, will free up some at-bats this spring. 

The Astros will get a better gauge on up-and-comers like Matt Duffy, Tyler White, A.J. Reed and Colin Moran.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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 to miss 4-6 weeks after hernia surgery

Gattis to miss 4-6 weeks after hernia surgery

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis told MLB.com on Tuesday that he will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia.

Gattis said via text message that he is optimistic he will be ready for the start of the regular season or shortly thereafter, and he hopes to start getting some at-bats in mid- to late March. Astros position players are scheduled to work out for the first time on Feb. 23.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arbitration panel rules $5M salary for Castro

Astros prevail in hearing against veteran catcher

Arbitration panel rules $5M salary for Castro

HOUSTON -- The Astros won their arbitration case against veteran catcher Jason Castro on Tuesday, when a three-person panel determined he will be paid a $5 million salary this year. Castro was seeking $5.25 million.

Castro, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, has emerged as one of the game's top defensive catchers, but he slumped offensively last season and hit .211 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. He was the starting catcher for a pitching staff that was among the game's best.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Relief pitching

Newly acquired Giles expected to slot into ninth, strengthen corps

Around the Horn: Relief pitching

This is the fifth of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Up next: Relief pitching.

HOUSTON -- The Astros' glaring need for a power arm in the back of the bullpen was the top priority of the offseason for general manager Jeff Luhnow, who pulled off a major deal at the Winter Meetings to get closer Ken Giles from the Phillies in exchange for four players.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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 have 3 eyeing rebound '16 seasons

Castro, Feldman and Fister looking to make impact

Astros have 3 eyeing rebound '16 seasons

HOUSTON -- The Astros will hit the field at Osceola County Stadium next week for the start of their final Spring Training in Kissimmee, Fla., with much anticipation. The team is coming off its first playoff berth in 10 years and was six outs away from eliminating the Royals in the American League Division Series.

Over the next few days, we'll provide a categorical preview of the 2016 team as it prepares for Spring Training, including the top prospects to watch as well as the projected lineup, rotation and bullpen. The series begins today with a look at players on the rebound.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Cloud State completes Invitational sweep

Tarleton State edges Henderson State in 10th; St. Mary's powers to victory

Game 1
St. Cloud State 2, Central Missouri 1

HOUSTON -- St. Cloud State came into the 2016 Houston Winter Invitational as the highest seed among the six NCAA Division II teams participating in the three-day event.

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

7-run eighth sparks St. Mary's at Minute Maid

Ninth-inning homer lifts Arkansas-Monticello in Game 2; St. Cloud wins after big first in Game 3

Game 1
St. Mary's 10, Henderson State 5

HOUSTON -- Zach Johnson tripled and doubled in St. Mary's seven-run eighth inning to propel the Rattlers to a win over Henderson State in the first of three games Saturday in the 2016 Houston Winter Invitational at Minute Maid Park.

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

Crane ready for another Astros playoff run

Owner a year ago correctly predicted postseason trip

Crane ready for another Astros playoff run

HOUSTON -- It was this time a year ago that Astros owner Jim Crane raised a few eyebrows by making the bold proclamation his team would make the postseason in 2015. Crane didn't beat his chest about his prediction when speaking to the media Friday at Minute Maid Park, but said he's pleased with the direction of the club and looks forward to big things in 2016.

The Astros -- who were baseball's biggest surprise team last year, when they won the American League Wild Card before losing in five games to the Royals in the AL Division Series -- are poised to contend again and are one of the favorites to win the AL West.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Starting pitching

Addition of Fister bolsters already strong selection of arms

Around the Horn: Starting pitching

This is the fourth of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into the season. Up next: starting pitching.

HOUSTON -- The addition of veteran right-hander Doug Fister to a one-year deal last month rounded out the Astros' offseason moves, giving them another proven arm to add to what is the deepest starting rotation they've had in years.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCracken reflects during Black History Month

McCracken reflects during Black History Month

HOUSTON -- Quinton McCracken, the former Major League player, was promoted last year to Astros director of player personnel, where he assists in player-personnel decisions across all areas, including free-agent acquisitions, trades and amateur signings.

He also evaluates players across all categories, including amateur and professional, both inside and outside the organization, and serves as an adviser to the functional leaders in amateur and professional scouting, player development and international operations.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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

Richard Justice

Astros' Urban Youth Academy works wonders

Program provides essential tools for baseball and beyond

Astros' Urban Youth Academy works wonders

HOUSTON -- It's not only about those six young people and their college scholarships. It's about what they represent.

"Our program works," said Daryl Wade, director of the Houston Astros' Urban Youth Academy (UYA).

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ark-Monticello, St. Cloud St. shine at Houston Winter Invitational

Henderson State edges Central Missouri to wrap first day

Ark-Monticello, St. Cloud St. shine at Houston Winter Invitational

Game 1

Arkansas-Monticello 10, Tarleton State 6

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

Around the Horn: Outfield is rock solid

Gomez, Rasmus, Springer lead versatile group

Around the Horn: Outfield is rock solid

This is the third of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into the season. This one: outfield.

HOUSTON -- The Astros will enter Spring Training camp with a set outfield, including the three starters and the two bench players. The club re-signed Colby Rasmus, who accepted a one-year qualifying offer, to return its outfield intact, though poised to be better than it was last season.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com andwrites an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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 UYA celebrates 6 receiving scholarships

Academy players earn offers to play baseball, softball in college

Astros UYA celebrates 6 receiving scholarships

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy celebrated having six players receive scholarship offers to play baseball and softball in college with a signing ceremony Wednesday.

Included in the group was Brooke Dibler, who became the first Astros RBI/UYA softball scholarship recipient. She has signed to play for Prairie View A&M University. Signing baseball scholarships were Lance Byron (Prairie View), Myles Campbell (Blinn Junior College), Isaiah Meyers (Wharton Junior College), Tyron Thomas (Prairie View) and Kaelon Woods (Prairie View).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McHugh working to build off 2015 success

McHugh working to build off 2015 success

HOUSTON -- The success of the Astros' starting rotation a year ago wasn't a one-man show, despite the terrific season turned in by American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel.

As great as Keuchel was in 2015, he had quite the sidekick in right-hander Collin McHugh, who finished second to the lefty in the AL with 19 wins. In fact, McHugh (19-7) and Keuchel (20-8) are just the second pair of Astros teammates in franchise history to record at least 19 wins in the same season.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feldman expects to be ready by Spring Training

'I feel better than I have in years,' righty says

Feldman expects to be ready by Spring Training

HOUSTON -- The signing of right-hander Doug Fister last week gives the Astros enough rotation depth to weather an injury to one of their starters. Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman is coming off a shoulder injury that cost him the final month of last season, and he expects to be ready to compete when Spring Training starts in two weeks.

Feldman, who was shut down on Sept. 1 because of a right shoulder sprain, was able to avoid surgery and has been throwing during the offseason with promising results. He says his arm feels great and he should be 100 percent when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18 in Kissimmee, Fla.
 

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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 boast 5 players in Top 100 Prospects list

Bregman, Reed, Martes highlight Houston's strong system

Astros boast 5 players in Top 100 Prospects list

HOUSTON -- The Astros landed five players on MLB.com's annual Top 100 prospects list, led by shortstop and former No. 2 overall Draft pick Alex Bregman at No. 22. First baseman A.J. Reed (40), right-handed pitcher Francis Martes (41) and outfielders Kyle Tucker (74) and Daz Cameron (75) also appear on the list.

Based on a point system in which 100 points are gained for having the No. 1-ranked player and 99 for No. 2, etc., the Astros rank ninth with 253 points. Only the Phillies (seven), Rockies (six), Twins (six) and Cubs (six) have more prospects on the Top 100 than the Astros.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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

Richard Justice

Astros feel they're 'built to go the distance'

Astros feel they're 'built to go the distance'

HOUSTON -- In the end, the Astros did almost everything they could have hoped to do this offseason. So what do you think, Jeff Luhnow?

"This team is built to go the distance this year," the Astros' general manager said Thursday.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister looks like one of winter's best bargains

If healthy, RHP could be set for a big bounceback 2016

Fister looks like one of winter's best bargains

On the surface, it's easy to see why Doug Fister didn't garner much attention on the free-agent market this offseason. He turns 32 next week, he posted very poor numbers in a contract year and his velocity hit career lows in 2015.

But Fister, who signed a one-year deal with the Astros on Thursday that will pay him a reported $7 million plus performance bonuses, could end up being one of the offseason's best free-agent bargains. No, the trends aren't pretty, but there's reason to believe his career decline isn't as ominous as it appears.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister excited to join Astros on 1-year deal

Right-hander spent past two seasons with Washington, won 16 games in 2014

Fister excited to join Astros on 1-year deal

HOUSTON -- The Astros' starting rotation, which was second in the American League last season with a 3.71 ERA, got even deeper on Thursday when the team announced the signing of free-agent right-hander Doug Fister to a one-year deal.

Fister, who gets a base salary of $7 million and could earn another $5 million in incentives based on the number of innings pitched, spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals, going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games last year (15 starts). He went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nats in 2014 and finished eighth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Infield a strength for Astros

Competition at corner spots, with Altuve and Correa locked in up the middle

Around the Horn: Infield a strength for Astros

This is the second of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Up next: infield.

HOUSTON -- As a whole, the Astros have good reason to be very confident in their infield for 2016: They have a three-time All-Star, former batting champion and Gold Glove winner at second base in Jose Altuve and the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year at shortstop in Carlos Correa.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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

Jim Callis

Bregman makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

Dodgers' Seager tops list, Philly's Crawford and Brewers' Arcia next up

Bregman makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Even with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell graduating to the big leagues, shortstop remains the glamour position for up-and-coming talent. Corey Seager, J.P. Crawford and Orlando Arcia rank among the elite prospects in the game, while Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers were the first three picks in the 2015 Draft. Interestingly, the top six shortstop prospects and eight of the 10 best belong to National League clubs.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros ink Wandy, 2 others to Minors deals

Contracts with Rodriguez, Cabrera and Worth include invitations to Spring Training

Astros ink Wandy, 2 others to Minors deals

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Tuesday announced the signing of left-handed pitchers Edwar Cabrera and Wandy Rodriguez and infielder Danny Worth to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Rodriguez, whose signing was reported last week, made 17 appearances for the Rangers last season, including 15 starts, going 6-4 with a 4.90 ERA. The Rangers went 10-5 in his 15 starts, in which he posted a 4.07 ERA.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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 Minor Leaguer Rosario dies in motorcycle accident

HOUSTON -- Jose Rosario, a right-handed pitcher in the Astros' Minor League system, was killed in a motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, the team Monday said in a statement.

Rosario, 20, was signed by the Astros as an 18-year-old Minor League free agent in December 2013. He split the '15 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League, going 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 18 games (eight starts).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. 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

Jonathan Mayo

Kemp makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

Boston's Moncada leads list, followed by Reds' Peraza at No. 2

Kemp makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

There has been quite a bit of turnover from last year to the 2016 edition of the Top 10 second-base prospects, with six new names joining the list, thanks to two graduations and four who dropped off the list.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.