Mills held club together during trying times

Mills held club together during trying times

HOUSTON -- The Astros were thrilled with the job Brad Mills did in his first season as manager. Sure, the team finished 76-86 and in fourth place in the National League Central -- a two-game improvement over last year -- but considering the amount of upheaval Mills had to deal with, things could have been much worse.

Mills lost his first eight games as manager and had to endure another eight-game losing streak in May, as the club stumbled to a 41-59 start and soon dealt franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in an effort to get younger. The Astros went 32-18 between July 28 and Sept. 20 to get within four games of .500, before stumbling in the final two weeks.

"He was a first-time skipper and he handled everything pretty well," pitcher Brett Myers said. "I'm sure it was a learning experience for him as much as it was for us, and for me having a new skipper. He's doing a good job. He stuck with me plenty of times this year when he didn't have to and gave me an opportunity to pitch six innings almost every time. That showed me a lot about how he feels about his players."

Mills is under contract for next year, but the club has an option for 2012. The entire coaching staff, with the exception of hitting coach Jeff Bagwell, was recently given two-year extensions though 2012, so it seems likely the Astros would pick up Mills' option at some point.

"There's no sense or urgency about it in mind," general manager Ed Wade said. "Millsie knows what we think of him. We expect him to be here for a long, long time and we'll get to it at the proper moment. No timetable has been set at this point. Certainly anybody that perceives him other than a long-term guy for us is looking at it completely erroneously."

Bagwell was offered a two-year extension and is expected to decide later this month.