Astros to zero in on bullpen help during Hot Stove

Club also hopes to beef up offense by targeting corner-infield spots, outfield depth

Astros to zero in on bullpen help during Hot Stove

Hot Stove Tracker

HOUSTON -- With the World Series having come to a conclusion and free agency set to begin, the Astros plan to be active in the market while exploring trade options to upgrade their club heading into the 2015 season.

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

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Astros slated to play 14 spring home games

Astros slated to play 14 spring home games

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Friday unveiled their 2015 Spring Training schedule, which includes 14 games at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., and two exhibition games at Minute Maid Park against the American League champion Kansas City Royals.

The Astros will play a total of 30 games, including 27 in the Grapefruit League. Spring contests open at home in Kissimmee on March 5 in a matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies. That game will be one of two against the Phillies, who will also play host to the Astros in Clearwater, Fla., on March 25.

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

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Altuve's big year results in three GIBBY nominations

Altuve's big year results in three GIBBY nominations

HOUSTON -- A record-breaking season for Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has him in the running for three of MLB.com's Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) awards: Most Valuable Player, Best Hitter and Breakout Hitter of the Year.

Altuve won the American League batting title last season, leading the Majors with a .341 average and a club-record 225 hits -- smashing Craig Biggio's previous club record of 210, set in 1998. Altuve was the first player in franchise history to win a batting title.

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

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Astros hope to boost offense, look to youth next season

Young core of Altuve, Springer and Keuchel will lead club going forward

Astros hope to boost offense, look to youth next season

HOUSTON -- When asked what his top priority will be this offseason in terms of improving the Astros, general manager Jeff Luhnow didn't hesitate in saying offense.

The Astros were an improved offensive team from a year ago, thanks to Jose Altuve's remarkable season, the arrival of George Springer, the acquisition of Dexter Fowler and the second-half resurgence of Chris Carter. Still, the Astros relied too much on the home run and had the lowest production at the corner infield spots with third baseman Matt Dominguez regressing and rookie first baseman Jon Singleton struggling in his debut.

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

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Astros games to reach larger market on new network

HOUSTON -- Astros games will be available to a larger portion of the Houston television market beginning next year after a bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved a Chapter 11 reorganization plan that will allow AT&T and DirecTV to purchase Comcast SportsNet Houston.

The new network, which will launch in November as Root Sports Houston, will be carried on DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and Comcast. It will replace Comcast SportsNet Houston, which launched two years ago and was primarily only available to Comcast subscribers, representing about 40 percent of the TV market.

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

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Hinch watches AFL action, meets with prospects

New Astros skipper making rounds as he begins to focus on 2015

Hinch watches AFL action, meets with prospects

HOUSTON -- A.J. Hinch's crash course on learning the Astros inside and out this week has taken him to the Arizona Fall League, where some of the club's top prospects are competing. That list includes pitchers Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez and Tyson Perez and third baseman Rio Ruiz.

Hinch, who lived for years in the Phoenix area while he was working for the D-backs, arrived in the desert on Monday morning just in time to watch Appel throw a bullpen session and see Velasquez throw five innings, allowing two runs and one hit to earn the win for the Salt River Rafters.

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

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Beware! The mummy of Orbit is coming to get you!

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Beware! The mummy of Orbit is coming to get you!

It's important to be on your toes on Halloween. After all, with the dead walking the Earth and happy haunts materializing, anything can happen. These Astros employees had to learn that the hard way when walking into work on Friday.

Little did they expect that waiting around the corner was a creature of pure terror, a being ripped from your nightma -- oh, wait, it's just Orbit in some toilet paper. 

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Astros' Velasquez backed by offense in AFL win

Houston's No. 8 prospect allows one hit, strikes out six; Salt River scores 14 in victory

Astros' Velasquez backed by offense in AFL win

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Astros prospect Vincent Velasquez missed two months during the regular season with a groin strain, but now he's 100 percent healthy and his results in the Arizona Fall League reflect it.

"I'm feeling really strong," Velasquez said. "Everything's feeling good. I've never felt better. Arm is coming along perfectly, everything starts from the ground up and it's working good."

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

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Luhnow shares fond memories of Taveras

Astros GM shocked, saddened by news of young outfielder's death

Luhnow shares fond memories of Taveras

HOUSTON -- Like the rest of the baseball world, the news of the death of Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras hit Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow like a ton of bricks. Luhnow was watching Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night when the saw the report Taveras and his girlfriend had been killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

Luhnow was immediately met with disbelief. After all, he knew Taveras better than most people outside of the Cardinals organization, considering he scouted him and recommended in 2008 the Cardinals sign him as a 16-year-old.

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

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Mending Peacock may miss start of 2015 season

Mending Peacock may miss start of 2015 season

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Brad Peacock could miss the start of the 2015 regular season while he recovers from arthroscopic surgery performed earlier this month on his right hip to repair a torn labrum and remove bone spurs.

Peacock, whose surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 6, said he will be on crutches for five more weeks before undergoing two months of rehab, but said Tuesday he's already feeling better.

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

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Astros' Perez named to AFL Fall Stars roster

Rosters for annual AFL event include 14 prospects from Top 100 rankings

Astros' Perez named to AFL Fall Stars roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Make way for the next generation.

Several of the best prospects in baseball will collide on Saturday in the ninth annual Fall Stars Game, the yearly All-Star Game for the Arizona Fall League. This year's rosters feature 14 players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.

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

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Fowler joins MLB team for All-Star Series in Japan

Astros outfielder joins teammate Altuve for five-game set, two exhibitions

Fowler joins MLB team for All-Star Series in Japan

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler said Saturday he had accepted an invitation to play for the MLB team during the 2014 "All-Star Series," which is a five-game set against Japan's national team next month in Japan.

Fowler was invited by the Major League Baseball Players Association to join the tour, which includes Astros teammate Jose Altuve. Fowler hit .276 with a .375 on-base percentage, eight homers and 35 RBIs in his first season with 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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Keuchel chosen as AL Gold Glove finalist

Southpaw trying to become first Astros pitcher to win award

Keuchel chosen as AL Gold Glove finalist

HOUSTON -- Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel is one of three finalists at his position selected Thursday for a Rawlings American League Gold Glove Award, joining Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

The winners will be revealed at 6 p.m. CT on Nov. 4 on ESPN2.

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

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Prospect Velasquez untouchable in AFL action

Houston pitcher throws four scoreless innings, allows one hit while fanning two in victory

Prospect Velasquez untouchable in AFL action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Salt River Rafters are following a really simple recipe for success: Start a Houston prospect and win a well-pitched game. Vincent Velasquez did the trick Tuesday, following up a gem by Mark Appel with four shutout innings in a 5-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

Velasquez, ranked Houston's No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, allowed just one hit against a star-studded lineup for Peoria. The Javelinas had three of the top 100 prospects ranked by MLB.com in Tuesday's lineup, but Velasquez and three Salt River relievers held Peoria to just two hits for the day.

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

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Astros one step closer to moving spring facility south

Palm Beach County approves financing plan for new complex

HOUSTON -- The Astros cleared a major hurdle in relocating their Spring Training operations to Palm Beach County, Fla., on Tuesday when county commissioners voted to approve a financing plan for a new facility the club will share with the Nationals. The teams have 90 days to find a location for the complex.

County commissioners voted, 5-2, to allocate $108 million in hotel tax revenue for the facility, which will cost $135 million to build. The Astros have two years remaining on their lease at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., and are aiming to hold their first Spring Training in south Florida by 2017.

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

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Appel deals, continues scoreless streak in AFL

Astros prospect throws five shutout innings, now at 12 consecutive in Fall League play

Appel deals, continues scoreless streak in AFL

After a disappointing start to the season at Class A Advanced Lancaster, right-hander Mark Appel righted himself in the last month of the season at Double-A Corpus Christi. Now, in the Arizona Fall League, he is pitching like the dominant starter the Astros expected when they made him the first overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Monday, Appel, ranked No. 41 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, threw five scoreless innings to earn his first victory in the AFL, as Salt River defeated Peoria, 4-2.

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

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Astros expected to raise payroll in 2015

Houston looking to bolster bullpen, offense

Astros expected to raise payroll in 2015

HOUSTON -- The Astros took a 19-game step forward in 2014 when they won 70 games a year after winning only 51. While a similar leap next season would be welcome, just how much better the Astros will be in '15 depends on the offseason.

Astros owner Jim Crane said last week the payroll will likely rise by at least $20 million -- up from $45 million in '14 -- and it could increase even more now that the team's television stalemate with Comcast is nearing completion. The Astros were paid only half their television rights fees in '13 and none this year and have been in court trying to recoup some money as they work on a new TV deal.

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

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Astros name four coaches to Hinch's big league staff

Astros name four coaches to Hinch's big league staff

The 2015 Major League coaching staff for new Astros manager A.J. Hinch is beginning to take form, after the team named four new members Friday.

Trey Hillman was named bench coach, Dave Hudgens as hitting coach, Gary Pettis as the third-base coach as well as outfield/baserunning instructor and Rich Dauer as first-base coach and infield instructor.

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Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Listach won't return as third-base coach

Listach won't return as third-base coach

Astros third-base coach Pat Listach was informed by general manager Jeff Luhnow on Friday that he will not return next season.

"I'm very disappointed not to be coming back," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but at the same time I'm disappointed."

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Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Appel dominates again in AFL start

Astros pitching prospect makes it nine scoreless innings for Salt River

Appel dominates again in AFL start

SCOTTSDALE -- The Salt River Rafters were credited with a 1-0 victory over the Surprise Saguaros on Tuesday night in the Arizona Fall League, but the win may as well have gone to the Houston Astros organization.

Astros prospects Mark Appel -- the 46th-ranked prospect by MLB.com and the No. 2 prospect in the Astros organization -- and Andrew Aplin led the way with strong pitching and timely hitting. And Tyson Perez, another Houston farmhand, sealed the deal by picking up the save with a scoreless ninth.

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William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lawless sees great things in Astros' near future

Former interim manager believes club can take another leap forward in '15

Lawless sees great things in Astros' near future

HOUSTON -- When asked if he would like seeing a rematch of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and the Cardinals, Tom Lawless didn't have to think too long for an answer.

"I wouldn't like that at all," said Lawless, who managed the Astros on an interim basis in September. "That would bring bad memories back."

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

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Astros decline Albers' option, cut down 40-man roster

Houston outrights Guzman, Owens while clearing space

Astros decline Albers' option, cut down 40-man roster

HOUSTON -- The Astros cleared some space on their 40-man roster Thursday by outrighting first baseman Jesus Guzman and left-handed pitcher Rudy Owens and declining the option on veteran reliever Matt Albers.

Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Jorge De Leon was claimed off waivers by Oakland, leaving the Astros with 36 players on their 40-man roster. Clubs typically clear space on their 40-man roster this time of year so they can add some prospects they might be in danger of losing in December's Rule 5 Draft.

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

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Dierker hosts golf tournament to raise money for at-risk kids

Dierker hosts golf tournament to raise money for at-risk kids

CYPRESS, Texas -- Larry Dierker made his Major League Baseball debut on his 18th birthday on Sept. 22, 1964 and struck out the Giants' Willie Mays in the first inning as a member of the Houston Colt .45s.

Dierker would go on to pitch 14 years in the majors until 1977, the first 13 years with the Colt .45s/Astros. He guided the Astros to the playoffs four of the five years he managed the club from 1997-2001, and he was a longtime broadcaster with the team.

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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.

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Chicago native Mallee leaves Astros for Cubs

Hitting coach was instrumental in helping young players such as Altuve, Carter improve

Chicago native Mallee leaves Astros for Cubs

HOUSTON -- When John Mallee was a young hitting coach in Class A in 1996, he was driving past Wrigley Field in his native Chicago and told his father he would one day coach on that field while wearing a Cubs uniform. The dream has come true.

Mallee, who spent the previous two years as Houston's hitting coach and helped Jose Altuve win a batting title this year, accepted the position to be the Cubs' hitting coach Thursday, giving him the opportunity to live near his home. Mallee is a Chicago native and his family lives in nearby northern Indiana in the offseason.

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

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Orbit will join MLB All-Stars for Japan Series

Orbit will join MLB All-Stars for Japan Series

HOUSTON -- Astros mascot Orbit has been selected by Major League Baseball to join the All-Star team taking part in the 2014 Japan All-Star Series in November. He was the only mascot selected for the trip.

Orbit will join Astros second baseman and American League batting champion Jose Altuve, who is among the MLB All-Stars participating in the series. The MLB All-Stars will play a five-game series against "Samurai Japan," which is Japan's national team.

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

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Appel sharp in Fall League debut

Top pick in 2013 fires three shutout innings; two D-backs prospects hit HRs

Appel sharp in Fall League debut

For right-hander Mark Appel, a trying start to his first full professional season has given way to the results expected from the top overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Appel continued his turnaround Wednesday, as he threw three scoreless innings in his Arizona Fall League debut and Salt River defeated Scottsdale, 6-3.

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

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Accolades pouring in for hitting king Altuve

Astros second baseman's record-setting season recognized by club, CITGO

Accolades pouring in for hitting king Altuve

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve, two days removed from being crowned the first batting champion in Astros history, worked out Tuesday and said he wished he could have played another game. Even though the season is over, Altuve isn't slowing down.

The All-Star second baseman was the guest of honor at a private reception Tuesday night at Union Station, where he was presented with an award by CITGO in recognition for his 2014 season. In addition to leading the Majors in batting average (.341), Altuve led the Majors and set a team record with 225 hits and led the American League in stolen bases (56).

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

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Hinch headed to Stanford Hall of Fame

New Astros manager won Pac-10 Player of the Year Award twice at university

Hinch headed to Stanford Hall of Fame

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch will be among seven former athletes and one coach inducted into the Stanford University Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif.

Hinch, who was hired by the Astros last week, will be inducted with Nicole Barnhart (women's soccer), Notah Begay III (men's golf), Toi Cook (baseball and football), Laura Granville (women's tennis), Skip Kenney (men's swimming and diving coach), Anika Leerssen (sailing) and Heather Olson (synchronized swimming).

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

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Hinch hits ground running in first day on job

Manager gets to know club staff, inspired by meeting with Altuve

Hinch hits ground running in first day on job

HOUSTON -- A.J. Hinch went right to work in his first day as manager of the Astros on Tuesday, a day that included a series of meetings, a tour of Minute Maid Park and a get-to-know-you session with All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.

The work's only beginning for Hinch, who was hired Monday as the Astros' 18th manager. General manager Jeff Luhnow, speaking Tuesday night at a reception for Altuve at Union Station, said the 40-year-old Hinch certainly isn't without stamina.

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

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