Operations manager O'Neill steps in on radio

SEATTLE -- Pinch-hitting in the radio booth at Safeco Field on Friday night was Dan O'Neill, the Astros' manager of team operations. O'Neill sat alongside play-by-play man Robert Ford as the color analyst as a sub for Steve Sparks, who was in Houston for his son's high school graduation.

The Astros had tried to get Morgan Ensberg to Seattle for the game, but the schedule didn't work out. Sparks will return to the airwaves Saturday.

"I'm a little nervous," said O'Neill, who's responsible for team travel and oversees the clubhouse, video, Florida operations and advance information departments. "I'd be more nervous if Robert was nervous, but he seems pretty ready to go. He used to do Minor League games all by himself so he'll carry the show, obviously."

O'Neill doesn't have broadcasting experience, but he knows the team and the game. He played in the Phillies organization and has been at nearly every Astros Spring Training and regular-season game since the start of 2013.

He sat in with O'Neill and Sparks on Thursday to get an idea about when Sparks speaks, and he called Triple-A pitching coach Steve Webber to get the lowdown on Astros starting pitcher Rudy Owens, who made his Major League debut on Friday.

"Sparks really helped me and showed me what he goes through," O'Neill said. "He said to just keep it simple."

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.