Back to school: Berkman hits the books at Rice

Former All-Star on schedule to graduate with kinesiology degree next summer

Back to school: Berkman hits the books at Rice

HOUSTON -- Thirteen years ago, a reporter asked Lance Berkman, "What did you major in at Rice?"

"Eligibility," he answered.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros add trio to roster for Rule 5 Draft protection

Astros add trio to roster for Rule 5 Draft protection

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wasn't joking when he said Wednesday that the team planned to use as much time as necessary to set its 40-man roster in advance of Thursday's 10:59 p.m. CT deadline. And with an hour to spare, the Astros made a late addition.

Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Feliz, who was left off the 40-man in the announcement the Astros made earlier in the day, was added to it about an hour prior to the deadline, putting the roster at 39. Luhnow said the Astros were working on a trade that didn't come to fruition, prompting them to put Feliz on the roster.

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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 lose Zeid to Tigers on waiver claim

Astros lose Zeid to Tigers on waiver claim

HOUSTON -- The reminder that baseball is a business smacked relief pitcher Josh Zeid in the face on Thursday when the Tigers claimed the right-handed relief pitcher on waivers.

Zeid and his wife, Stephanie, a neuropsychologist in Houston's famed medical center, had just purchased their first home in the Houston area after Zeid had appeared in 48 games with the Astros over the past couple of years. The house will remain, but Zeid is headed to Detroit.

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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 puts final touches on impressive Japan trip

Altuve puts final touches on impressive Japan trip

Jose Altuve wrapped up his trip to Japan by going 1-for-5 with a walk and a run in Thursday's 6-4 loss to Samurai Japan in an exhibition game at Okinawa Cellular Stadium.

The Astros second baseman went 6-for-14 (.429) in the official five-game Japan All-Star Series, emerging off the bench as one of the Major League Baseball All-Star squad's best hitters. He went a combined 1-for-7 in two exhibition games on either side of the series.

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

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Appel ranks among top prospects from AFL

Appel ranks among top prospects from AFL

The 23rd edition of the Arizona Fall League wrapped up with Salt River's win in the championship game over Peoria on Saturday. Once again, the AFL was jam packed with elite-level prospects.

That made putting together a top prospects list fairly easy. There were so many good players, it was decided to expand the list to a top 25, up from the typical 20. The list was compiled by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Teddy Cahill, along with feedback from a number of scouts who covered the league this fall. This list is more about long-term potential, but AFL performances were certainly taken into account.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tigers had talks with Astros about acquiring a catcher

Discussions apparently involved Houston's Corporan, but Detroit has since moved on

Tigers had talks with Astros about acquiring a catcher

DETROIT -- The Tigers picked up the club option on Alex Avila's contract earlier this week, but they remain in the news surrounding catching. While Major League sources confirmed a report from FOXSports.com that Detroit had talks with the Astros about their catching surplus, the source said talks ended with the Tigers moving on.

The Astros have three catchers on their roster following the addition of former Angels backstop Hank Conger two weeks ago. Talks with the Tigers supposedly centered around switch-hitting backup Carlos Corporan, who has pounded Tigers pitching the last two years (9-for-22, three HRs, four RBIs). Two of those home runs came off Max Scherzer in 2013. Corporan also homered off Evan Reed this past May.

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Altuve puts on youth-fundamental clinic in Okinawa

Altuve puts on youth-fundamental clinic in Okinawa

NAHA, Japan -- If anything, the fervor over Major League Baseball's All-Star team in Japan has only increased over the past two weeks. Early Wednesday evening, Red Sox manager John Farrell, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma visited Shuri Castle, Okinawa's seat of power for nearly half a millennium and the top tourist site on this southerly island outpost. Nearby, a group of schoolchildren were taking group photos in front of the castle.

Suddenly, one of the children noticed the big league ballplayers and screamed. The entire scrum began sprinting toward them, until a group of security officers managed to turn them back.

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

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Altuve's hot bat can't be contained in Japan

Altuve's hot bat can't be contained in Japan

Jose Altuve began the Japan All-Star Series on the bench, but he finished it as one of the MLB All-Stars' hottest hitters.

The Astros second baseman turned in a 3-for-5 game against Samurai Japan in Sapporo on Tuesday to cap the Series with his second consecutive multihit game. After guiding the assembled team of MLB All-Stars to a 3-1 victory -- their second straight win of the five-game set -- Altuve finished the Series 6-for-14 (.429).

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

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New SportsCenter ad features Orbit and James Harden

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New SportsCenter ad features Orbit and James Harden

Orbit's been travelling a lot lately, so it's only reasonable to assume that'd he'd want to explore the final frontier. Though, for him, outer space is less "travel" and more "going home for the holidays." That's probably why ESPN thought he'd make a great contact for their Mission Control Center, ably commanded by Houston Rockets guard James Harden. 

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Astros, Presley agree on $1 million deal

Astros, Presley agree on $1 million deal

HOUSTON -- The Astros avoided arbitration with outfielder Alex Presley by signing him to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday.

Presley, 29, hit .244 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 254 at-bats last season after coming over to the Astros in a waiver claim in March. He played in 85 games, with 67 starts, at all three outfield spots and designated hitter, but he missed 47 games from July 9-Sept. 2 with a strained oblique.

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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 a hit with locals in Tokyo

Astros mascot connecting with fans during Japan All-Star Series

Orbit a hit with locals in Tokyo

TOKYO -- Shibuya Crossing is one of the most helter-skelter places on earth, an area of Tokyo where five major crosswalks converge and the pedestrian lights all turn green at the same time. The result is a mass of humanity crushing together in a brightly-lit sea of neon.

Early one evening last week, just as the walk sign changed, a lime-green furry alien dashed into the middle of the crossing and stopped. A few strange glances melted into grins. Within moments, Orbit -- the Houston Astros mascot representing Major League Baseball on its Japan All-Star Series tour -- was safely back on the sidewalk, reveling in his status as Shibuya's new center of attention.

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

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Astros games to air on ROOT Sports Southwest

Astros games to air on ROOT Sports Southwest

HOUSTON -- Astros games will begin airing next year on ROOT Sports Southwest regional sports network, which made its debut Monday. The network will also be home to games for the NBA's Houston Rockets.

ROOT Sports Southwest will carry Astros regular-season and Spring Training games beginning in March. ROOT Sports Southwest, which is under DirecTV and AT&T ownership, will produce all Astros and Rockets coverage exclusively in high definition. A full comprehensive schedule will be released in the upcoming weeks.

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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 impressed with Appel's Fall League stint

Astros impressed with Appel's Fall League stint

HOUSTON -- Now that Astros right-hander Mark Appel has wrapped up his stay in the Arizona Fall League with a couple of strong outings, could he be coming soon to a ballpark near you?

Appel's promising performance with the Salt River Rafters -- which he capped by allowing three hits, a solo homer and a walk while striking out four batters in five innings Wednesday -- was a great sign for the Astros, who watched the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft struggle for much of 2014 after an appendectomy cost him all of Spring Training.

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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 plays catalyst in MLB's first win in Japan

Astros star goes 3-for-4, makes highlight-reel defensive plays

Altuve plays catalyst in MLB's first win in Japan

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve did a little bit of everything in the MLB squad's 6-1 win over Samurai Japan in Game 4 of the Japan All-Star Series on Sunday at the Tokyo Dome.

The Majors' regular-season hits leader this past season snapped an 0-for-6 skid by picking up three hits in his final three at-bats out of the leadoff spot. Altuve was forced into action on Sunday after Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano suffered a broken right pinkie toe in Game 3, and he responded in a big way.

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

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Astros have better feel for options after GM Meetings

Astros have better feel for options after GM Meetings

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, scheduled to return home Thursday from the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix, said he's pleased with the groundwork that was laid to improve the club through free agency and the trade market.

The Astros, who last week traded for Angels backup catcher Hank Conger, are still in the market for relief pitching, a starting pitcher and some offensive punch, which would likely come from the corner-infield spots, where the club struggled mightily last 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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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Top performances, prospects from 2014 Fall League

A team-by-team breakdown of who impressed and how each club's top player fared

Top performances, prospects from 2014 Fall League

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League is known as baseball's finishing school because it has graduated a ton of talent to the Major Leagues since it began play in 1992. The AFL has produced 212 All-Stars, including 35 in this year's Midsummer Classic, 25 Rookies of the Year, 13 MVPs and five Cy Young Award winners.

Based on the quality of the talent in the AFL this year, more big leaguers and stars are on the way. The league wrapped up its 23rd season on Saturday, with the Salt River Rafters outlasting the Peoria Javelinas, 14-7, for their fourth title and first since 2011.

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

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MLB stars take part in Japanese tea ceremony

Fowler, Choate, Santiago perform formal steps of tradition that dates to 14th century

MLB stars take part in Japanese tea ceremony

TOKYO -- A day after arriving to Tokyo from Osaka via bullet train, Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler, Cardinals reliever Randy Choate and Angels pitcher Hector Santiago participated in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony on Friday, several hours before their game against the Japanese National Team at the Tokyo Dome (6 p.m. JT, 4 a.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV).

After strolling through a garden with Buddhist statues and magnificently manicured greenery, the trio of players representing Major League Baseball in the Japan All-Star Series were treated to Matcha, a powdered green tea, and assorted sweets as part of a tradition that dates back to the 14th century.

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David Venn is executive editor of LasMayores.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Callis: Appel solid in final Fall League start

Astros' Appel outduels White Sox flame thrower; Dodgers' Schebler impresses vs. former No. 1 pick

Callis: Appel solid in final Fall League start

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the White Sox shipped Jake Peavy to the Red Sox in a three-team trade in July 2013, the key player they got back was outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers. Chicago also received three lower-level prospects from Boston, and one of those lottery tickets started to blossom this year.

Right-hander Francellis Montas reached triple digits with his fastball while in the Red Sox's system, but he didn't do much else to distinguish himself. After the White Sox cleaned up his delivery, he made significant progress with his slider, changeup, control and command. Montas' fastball didn't lose any sizzle, hitting 102 mph on one occasion, and Chicago began to entertain thoughts that he might contribute to its big league rotation in 2015.

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

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Eli Young Band set to play Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON -- Country music will take over Minute Maid Park for Saturday's Eli Young Band House Party, which gets underway at 5 p.m. CT. Doors open at 3:30 p.m.

The Eli Young Band, which garnered a career-first American Music Award nomination for favorite vocal group/duo-Country and received its third consecutive nomination for the vocal group of the year CMA Award, will headline four acts that will perform.

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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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Carter, Gonzalez headline list of Super Two players

The 26 players named are eligible for salary arbitration

Carter, Gonzalez headline list of Super Two players

Major League Baseball and the Players' Association have finalized a list of 26 players with less than three years of Major League service time who are eligible for salary arbitration, also known as Super Twos, a Major League Baseball source confirmed.

The group is headlined by Mets closer Jenrry Mejia, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera, Angels pitcher Garrett Richards, Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, Astros slugger Chris Carter, A's third baseman Josh Donaldson and Yankees pitcher David Phelps.

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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.

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Hudgens ready to start fresh after dismissal from Caracas

New hitting coach has already started preparing for 2015 season

Hudgens ready to start fresh after dismissal from Caracas

HOUSTON -- Dave Hudgens, who was dismissed as the manager of Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League last week, is awaiting a flight home to the United States, which will allow him to get a further jumpstart on his new role as Astros hitting coach.

Hired by first-year Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Hudgens has already been sent video clips of each hitter, so he has already begun his preparations for next season. He hopes to be in Texas later this week to spend time with family in San Antonio before heading to Arizona, where he lives.

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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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With big bat, defense, Fowler key in Japan exhibition

Solo shot and crucial throw help MLB All-Stars hold off Hanshin-Yomiuri

With big bat, defense, Fowler key in Japan exhibition

Dexter Fowler displayed more than just his usual blinding speed on Tuesday in the MLB All-Stars' 8-7 exhibition win at the Japan All-Star Series.

Fowler belted a home run, collected two hits and made an accurate throw that prevented the potential tying run from scoring in the ninth inning. At the most pivotal times, the Astros' center fielder stepped up in the introductory contest against players from the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Astros starting to see fruits of their hard labor

GM Luhnow architect of club on rise with wealth of young talent

Astros starting to see fruits of their hard labor

PHOENIX -- It was another season of progress, actually amazing progress. The Astros improved by 19 games.

"In my opinion, we're ahead of plan," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

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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.

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Altuve thrilled to be in Japan following outstanding year

Astros star second baseman to combine workout with cultural experience

Altuve thrilled to be in Japan following outstanding year

NISHINOMIYA, Japan -- Jose Altuve is coming off a dream season with the Houston Astros. The second baseman led the Major Leagues with a .341 average and 225 hits, in addition to topping the American League with 56 stolen bases.

Now, after a little more than a month off following the 2014 campaign, the Venezuela native is part of the Major League team competing in this month's All-Star Series in Japan, which will be broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.TV.

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David Venn is executive editor of LasMayores.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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McHugh, Springer finish in top 10 in AL ROY voting

McHugh, Springer finish in top 10 in AL ROY voting

HOUSTON -- The Astros had two players finish in the top 10 in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year on Monday when pitcher Collin McHugh came in fourth and outfielder George Springer finished in a tie for eighth.

White Sox slugger Jose Abreu was a unanimous winner in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, receiving all 30 first-place votes to finish ahead of Angels starter Matt Shoemaker and Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.

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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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Family helps Velasquez get past setbacks

Righty has dealt with multiple injuries, but he's one of Astros' top prospects

Family helps Velasquez get past setbacks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's no lonelier place on the baseball field than the pitcher's mound, but Astros prospect Vincent Velasquez never takes the field alone. He carries with him an entire family that's loved him and supported him and helped him through hard times.

Velasquez, ranked by MLB.com as the Astros' No. 8 prospect, admits family has kept him going through rough waters, which included missing the entire 2011 season following Tommy John surgery and dealing with a pesky groin injury that cost him two months last season and perhaps kept him from reaching Double-A.

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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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Quartet honored to represent Astros in Japan

Quartet honored to represent Astros in Japan

NISHINOMIYA, Japan -- Though all of them represent Major League Baseball, most big leaguers participating in this month's Japan All-Star Series are relative strangers. Players from New York and Boston and Los Angeles and Seattle -- and plenty of points in between -- spent the past few days making small talk and getting to know one another.

Not the Astros. One of two teams with a quartet of representatives on MLB's 29-man roster, the Astros in Japan need not look far to see familiar faces.

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

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Astros president Ryan pleased with new TV deal

HOUSTON -- Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan gave MLB Network Radio listeners a snapshot of the state of the team on Sunday morning during an interview with Jim Bowden and Jody McDonald, covering topics that included the club's television deal, Spring Training relocation, new manager A.J. Hinch and the First-Year Player Draft.

In an interview with MLB.com later in the day, Ryan said the scheduled launch of Root Sports Houston later this week -- a regional sports network co-owned by AT&T and DirecTV that will replace CSN Houston -- will put the Astros on even ground with other teams.

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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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Ex-Rockies executive Geivett joining Astros' front office

Ex-Rockies executive Geivett joining Astros' front office

HOUSTON -- Bill Geivett, who resigned a front-office position with the Rockies following an organizational shakeup, is in line to become a cross-checker with the Astros, sources told MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby. Geivett was a finalist for the Astros' general manager job when the team hired Jeff Luhnow in December 2011.

The Astros have not confirmed the hiring.

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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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