On MLK Day, Astros display community spirit

About 250 club employees, among others, assist Houston Food Bank

On MLK Day, Astros display community spirit

HOUSTON -- The Houston Food Bank -- the nation's largest food bank -- was overtaken Monday by a sea of orange-clad Astros employees who volunteered as part of the club's annual Day of Service on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day national holiday.

About 250 Astros employees, as well as some of their relatives, season-ticket holders and others associated with the club split into morning and afternoon shifts to help sort food for distribution to the needy. In fiscal year 2015-16, the Houston Food Bank distributed 79 million meals.

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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, Springer among Astros to agree to deals

Houston has yet to reach consensus with 4 players, including Fiers, McHugh

Keuchel, Springer among Astros to agree to deals

HOUSTON -- The Astros avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on one-year deals with former American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, right fielder George Springer and center fielder Jake Marisnick, the club announced on Friday.

According to sources, Keuchel is due to earn $9.15 million in 2017, while Springer will make $3.9 million and Marisnick $1.1 million.

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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.

Martes among top RHP prospects

Reyes overtakes Giolito for top spot, Glasnow remains at No. 2

Martes among top RHP prospects

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Lucas Giolito headlined last year's list of the Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects, followed by Tyler Glasnow and Alex Reyes, respectively. That same trio checks in at the top of this year's list, too, only in a different order.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bregman will play for Team USA in Classic

Bregman will play for Team USA in Classic

Astros infielder Alex Bregman announced via Twitter on Friday that he will suit up for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Bregman, who will turn 23 in March, hit .264/.313/.478 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 217 plate appearances for Houston in his first taste of the Majors last season.

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Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Q&A: Biggio talks Hall of Fame, Bagwell

Q&A: Biggio talks Hall of Fame, Bagwell

Craig Biggio was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, his third year on the ballot. Nothing about his career changed over those three years, but his vote total went up each year.

And when Biggio was elected, he celebrated. Two years of disappointment were wiped away with one phone call from the Hall.

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Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Phils' voice Andersen forever tied to Bagwell

Houston traded former reliever to Boston for future superstar in 1990

Phils' voice Andersen forever tied to Bagwell

Count Larry Andersen among those pulling for Jeff Bagwell to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame next week.

Andersen holds the unique distinction as the only player to be traded for the Astros legend.

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Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospects, vets among Astros' 18 NRIs

Prospects, vets among Astros' 18 NRIs

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Friday announced they have invited 18 players who aren't on the 40-man roster to Major League Spring Training next month, including Minor League free agents Reid Brignac (infielder), Juan Centeno (catcher) and C.J. Riefenhauser (left-handed pitcher).

In addition, the Astros invited the following Minor Leaguers to big league camp: infielders J.D. Davis and Jon Singleton; outfielders Derek Fisher, Alejandro Garcia, Jon Kemmer and Ramon Laureano; catchers Tyler Heineman and Garrett Stubbs; left-handed pitcher Brian Holmes; and right-handed pitchers Edison Frias, Jordan Jankowski, Francis Martes, Tyson Perez, Cy Sneed and Aaron West.

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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.

Additions give Astros' lineup added versatility

Beltran, McCann, Reddick, Aoki bring veteran options, left-handed balance

Additions give Astros' lineup added versatility

HOUSTON -- In two seasons as manager of the Astros, A.J. Hinch has used 295 different lineups in 324 regular-season games. Hinch would prefer to have more stability in the batting order, but injuries and underperformance have forced him to do more shuffling than a Las Vegas blackjack dealer.

The additions of veterans Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Norichika Aoki will give Hinch viable options throughout the lineup, but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be more stability. The Astros always look for ways to exploit matchups by changing the lineup, and injuries likely will be another factor.

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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 ready to roll out caravan week

Community outreach tour begins on MLK Day, wraps with FanFest

Astros ready to roll out caravan week

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers, Chris Devenski and Jake Marisnick are among the players who will participate in the Astros' annual caravan, which begins next week.

The community outreach tour consists of several trips over the course of three days, with stops in the Houston area (Jan. 17-19), San Antonio (Jan. 18), Austin (Jan. 19) and Corpus Christi (Jan. 19), and culminates with the annual Astros FanFest at Minute Maid Park on Jan. 21.

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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.

Breaking down Bagwell's Hall of Fame case

Four-time All-Star narrowly missed election in '16

Breaking down Bagwell's Hall of Fame case

After six years of waiting, Jeff Bagwell could finally receive the call of his life.

Bagwell, the face of the Astros over his 15-year career, fell just 15 votes shy of induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame last winter. While the early returns this year are far from a guarantee, Bagwell appears to be on his way toward gaining election in his seventh year on the ballot. In 2016, his name appeared on 71.6 percent of ballots, with 75 percent needed for induction. This was a jump of nearly 16 percentage points from the year before (55.7 percent).

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Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Key Astros trio putting in work this offseason

Keuchel, McCullers plan on rebounding from injuries; Altuve has high hopes for 2017

Key Astros trio putting in work this offseason

HOUSTON -- There might not be three more pivotal players to the Astros' success this year than pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers and second baseman Jose Altuve.

Keuchel and McCullers are coming off injuries that ended their 2016 seasons prematurely and will enter the '17 season looking to be healthy anchors to the rotation. Altuve, of course, is perhaps the game's best hitter and coming off his second batting title in three 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.

Ensberg named Astros' short-season manager

Ensberg named Astros' short-season manager

HOUSTON -- Morgan Ensberg, the former Astros third baseman who was an All-Star on their 2005 National League championship team, has been named manager of the team's Class A short-season affiliate, the Tri-City ValleyCats.

Ensberg's first career managerial stint highlights the Astros' release of their 2017 Minor League staff on Tuesday. The managers of the club's top three affiliates remain unchanged, with Tony DeFrancesco (Triple-A Fresno), Rodney Linares (Double-A Corpus Christi) and Omar Lopez (Class A Advanced Buies Creek) all returning. The Buies Creek Astros of the Carolina League replace the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League as the Astros' Class A Advanced affiliate.

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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.

Spiers helps coach Clemson to NCAA title

MLB veteran returns to college to finish degree, join Tigers staff

Spiers helps coach Clemson to NCAA title

Former Brewers and Astros third baseman Bill Spiers, now a student assistant coach for the Clemson football program, joined MLB Network's Hot Stove Wednesday to discuss his career transition from professional baseball to college football.

Spiers, a native of Orangeburg, S.C., was the 13th overall pick in the 1987 Draft by the Brewers and played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues. He never graduated from the university, leaving early to begin a career in professional baseball.

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Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Quintana, Astros a match that makes sense

White Sox hurler would give Houston formidable playoff rotation

Quintana, Astros a match that makes sense

HOUSTON -- White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana makes too much sense for the Astros, which is why we're predicting Houston will be able to pull off a deal for the workhorse pitcher this offseason.

The Astros have said they're unwilling to part with their core of young players, a group that includes Alex Bregman and George Springer, but they have the prospects to pull off a significant trade. Whether the White Sox can be persuaded to trade the 27-year-old pitcher is another story.

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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.

Bagwell on set for 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives'

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Bagwell on set for 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives'

Jeff Bagwell: Rookie of the Year, MVP and player who has a very good chance of making the Hall of Fame when the voting results are announced later this month. But the real highlight of his career? He hung out on the set of Food Network's hit show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." 

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Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Spring is in the air: First workout dates announced

Despite the frigid temperatures throughout many big league cities, Major League Baseball's announcement Tuesday of the first workout dates of Spring Training should be enough to warm the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.

The following are the first Spring Training workout dates, subject to change, both for pitchers and catchers and full squads of the 30 Major League clubs. 

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Gonzalez's versatility a Mar-win for Hinch

IF/OF will continue to see plenty of playing time despite team's offseason additions

Gonzalez's versatility a Mar-win for Hinch

HOUSTON -- Marwin Gonzalez will remain a big part of the Astros' blueprint for success next season, despite the additions Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Norichika Aoki this offseason.

Gonzalez, the super-utility player, made 118 total starts at five positions last season, and he should again provide dependability and flexibility for manager A.J. Hinch.

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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.

In return to Astros, Beltran has pivotal role

Newcomers McCann, Reddick also bring plenty of experience to young squad

In return to Astros, Beltran has pivotal role

HOUSTON -- When a young outfielder named Carlos Beltran landed at Minute Maid Park halfway through the 2004 season, he stepped into a clubhouse that had a huge veteran presence. Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Brad Ausmus and Jeff Kent were accomplished stars who had seen everything in the game.

Beltran, a budding star at only 27 who possessed every tool on the field to be great, soaked in the experience. He listened and learned from a group with Hall of Fame resumes and watched how they did things on and off the field. Now he's come full circle at 39, returning to the Astros 12 years later as one of the veterans a young team will depend upon.

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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

Astros lead pack of contenders for Quintana

With biggest need, Houston has best talent to land White Sox hurler

Astros lead pack of contenders for Quintana

The Astros are ready to win the American League West and achieve the destiny that Sports Illustrated proclaimed for them a few years back -- 2017 World Series champions.

There's just this one nagging detail.

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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.

Ryan helped form historic '99 Hall class

Trio marked largest group of first-ballot inductees to Cooperstown

Ryan helped form historic '99 Hall class

It's been just under two decades since George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of a historic class.

Thursday marks the 18th anniversary of the election of the Hall of Fame Class of 1999, which included an unprecedented three first-ballot inductees in Brett, Ryan and Yount. The class also featured four selections by the Veterans Committee: Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, Frank Selee and Joe Williams.

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Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bagwell hopes HOF vote delights Astros fans

Slugger amazed by support for Biggio's induction; results unveiled Jan. 18

Bagwell hopes HOF vote delights Astros fans

HOUSTON -- It's been nearly a dozen years since Jeff Bagwell last put on an Astros uniform as a player, and it appears he certainly hasn't lost his popularity among Astros fans.

Bagwell, who will find out in two weeks if he will gain election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, welcomed a throng of eager fans to Pluckers Wing Bar on Wednesday night to participate in the team's weekly radio show, Astroline.

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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 decides to skip World Baseball Classic

Springer decides to skip World Baseball Classic

HOUSTON -- Though he was on the United States' provisional roster, Astros outfielder George Springer has elected not to play in the World Baseball Classic this spring, a source confirmed for MLB.com.

Springer, who was eligible to play for the United States and Puerto Rico, will skip the tournament and remain with the Astros this spring. Houston already has WBC commitments from second baseman Jose Altuve (Venezuela), outfielder Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico), shortstop Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico), pitcher Luke Gregerson (U.S.) and outfielder Norichika Aoki (Japan).

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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.

Influx of experience may put Astros over top

Influx of experience may put Astros over top

HOUSTON -- Despite the additions the Astros made this offseason and the rising expectations that come with improvements, the club isn't perfect. The Astros, like all teams, have questions, though not as many as in years past.

After acquiring catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Norichika Aoki and pitcher Charlie Morton, the Astros have added depth and experience, especially to an offense that figures to be among the best in the Major 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.

Altuve achieves elite status with stellar 2016

Astros second baseman isn't satisfied after winning 2nd batting title

Altuve achieves elite status with stellar 2016

HOUSTON -- He's no longer a novelty. He's no longer known more for his height than his accomplishments. He's not just one of the best second basemen in the Majors. Jose Altuve has arrived, cementing himself in 2016 as baseball's best hitter.

The 5-foot-6 All-Star has made a career out of proving people wrong, and 2016 was no exception. Just when you thought he couldn't play at a higher level, Altuve had the best season of his career with the Astros. He won his second American League batting title in three years, hitting .338 with career highs in homers (24) and RBIs (96) to go along with 30 steals, 42 doubles, a .928 OPS and 7.6 Wins Above Replacement. He led the AL in hits for the third year in a row and was named to his fourth All-Star team.

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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.

Bagwell ready for answer on Hall of Fame

Former Astros first baseman could join Biggio in Cooperstown

Bagwell ready for answer on Hall of Fame

HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell admits he gets a little more anxious with each passing day. He'll find out on Jan. 18 if he is finally elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and there figures to be some growing nervousness between now and then.

Bagwell, in a recent interview with MLB.com, said his family is also starting to feel the excitement build toward what appears likely to be a call informing him he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame -- the crowning achievement in his 15-year career with the Astros.

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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.

Altuve, youngsters highlight Astros' uneven year

Altuve, youngsters highlight Astros' uneven year

HOUSTON -- It was a season full of high expectations for the Astros, which is what made the way it finished so disappointing. Most expected Houston to make it back to the playoffs in 2016, but a woeful April and injuries at the end of the season proved to be too much to overcome.

The Astros found themselves with too many holes in the starting lineup on most nights, and a starting pitching rotation that vaulted them to the playoffs in 2015 took a step backward before injuries to ace Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers ravaged the club in September.

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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.