Fields grateful for shot with Astros after strong '12

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Josh Fields says he had no idea what to expect on the eve of the Rule 5 Draft, but he didn't want to wake up on Dec. 6 and wait around for something to happen. So he let all the text messages on his phone that morning serve as notice that something had, in fact, happened.

The Astros selected him first overall, hoping to immediately install him in their bullpen. It was just the kind of opportunity the Mariners' first-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft was looking for.

"I was just hoping to get picked up somewhere, and I was really, really excited when Houston picked me up," Fields said Friday morning at his locker in the Astros clubhouse. "I was super pumped, and being here with the team and the staff, it's awesome. I haven't been a part of a club like this yet, and I'm really, really excited to see what the season's going to hold."

Fields can admit now that he thought last year about earning a promotion to the Red Sox or a spot on their 40-man roster toward the end of his excellent Minor League campaign. He put together the best season of his young career with Double-A Portland and earned a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he threw 13 2/3 scoreless innings.

"I don't know what goes into that stuff. It's not personal, and they're not trying to mess anybody up. They're just doing what they think's best," Fields said. "I think the Lord did bless me big-time last year, and I threw well. I think that I could've easily had an opportunity up there, but it didn't work out that way. It's nothing personal, and I'm really excited to have this opportunity this year."

Fields, 27, posted a 2.01 ERA and racked up 78 strikeouts over 58 1/3 innings, an average of 12 per nine innings. Perhaps more importantly, Fields dramatically cut down on his walk totals, dropping from 6.7 per nine innings in 2011 to just 2.8 in '12. He credits Portland's pitching coach, Bob Kipper, for helping him simplify his delivery and find a more consistent routine.

Fields is attempting to carry that success over to his first Spring Training with the Astros. He has surrendered three runs in 5 1/3 innings over five Grapefruit League appearances entering Friday's game against the Pirates, allowing five hits while walking three and striking out four. He said he's just focused on building up strength, ironing out his mechanics and working on his curveball, a pitch that caught manager Bo Porter's eye as Fields began throwing it more.

"His breaking ball, it's a money pitch for him," Porter said. "Now that he's starting to use his breaking ball, we're anxious to see how things are going to be his next few outings."

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