By Will Martin
Recently Bo Porter made his first visit to Arlington Texas as the Astros skipper. The very day the Astros arrived-July 5th-was a birthday for Skipper Bo. It would mark my first visit with Bo since Opening Night in Houston 3/31/13. A night the Astros defeated the Rangers 8-2. The game also was the 4,000th career win in Astros history. The first as a representative of the American League.
For many years Bo Porter crafted his skills working alongside Davy Johnson and the Washington Nationals as a third base coach. In 2012 the Astros record was 55-107 as they became the first National League to jump to the junior league this year.
A payroll at about 21 million. 26 pro baseball players make more money than the whole team. GM Jeff Luhnow, Manager Bo Porter, and Owner Jim Crane have a plan to fully utilize the youth of their roster, the promise of their minor league clubs. Bringing up young talent to play baseball the right way in the name of team.
This rang somewhat similar to the Texas Rangers of 2007 when Ron Washington began his first year as skipper. It was a year to forget despite some great trades made along the way. Three years later Texas saw a World Series.
Perhaps it might take longer than three years for playoff aspirations to return to Houston. The nucleus of the 2013 Astros buffered by players such as 2B Jose Altuve, OF Chris Carter, OF Justin Maxwell, C Jason Castro, 3B Matt Dominguez, OF J.D. Martinez, 3B Brett Wallace and SS Ronny Cedeno. Brighter days lie ahead for the newest member to the American League West.
Bo Porter spent a good 15 minutes speaking to the media back on July 6th, including addressing the Blitz Nation. On first impression, you can’t help but notice the youthful exuberance, passion, and enthusiasm for the game. Since Day One Porter has stressed the team’s current direction. Ironically on this July 6th night Houston would earn their first win against the Rangers since that Opening Night.
With that said here is what was on the mind of Astros Manager Bo Porter on Saturday, July 6th 2013. Exactly one day after his birthday in the visitors dugout at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
At what point might you see a slew of callups from Triple A and Double A for the purpose of letting the younger up-and-comers gather some playing time in Houston?
I think that’s going to be based on, you know, opening opportunities for the guys. If we come to a point where we have enough information to make a decision that we as an organization deem as the appropriate decision moving forward…then at that time we will look forward into the players that are available within the system that warrant the opportunity at the appropriate time.
Could you see yourself going young at this time? I mean, most teams decide to go that route in early September. Could you see yourself doing that sort of thing as early as late July/early August?
We have some intriguing young players who have played well in our minor league system that we hope gives us options. But at the same time the mistake-and I have made so many references to this-is the evaluation of your very own. So that’s why we want to have as much information as possible so we can make the best possible. On the other side is to have a player you bring up to the majors and you have all the information you have about to make a sound decision to play as well.
If you were Jim Leyland or a member of the Detroit Tigers would it be easy for you to just pick 1 Astro to the All-Star game? With (Jose) Altuve, (Bud) Norris, and (Jason) Castro all having nice years would that be a tough decision?
It would be a very tough decision and I’m glad I didn’t have to make it (laughter). But all of those guys are All-Star worthy from Bud Norris to Jose Altuve to Jason Castro. You could even add a Jordan Lyles and Jose Veras just based on the way they performed the first half of the season.
You know, I have all the faith in the world that Jim Leyland and his staff-they will make a sound decision on our representatives. I don’t think they can make a wrong decision on any of those guys.
What do you think makes Yu Darvish so tough? Is it his wide array of pitches? Is it tough for a hitter to not know what’s coming?
Any time you can plus or minus your fastball from 96 to 90 mph and throw a plethora of breaking pitches in any count it’s pretty difficult. And then it’s like, you know he doesn’t pitch you in any one particular way based on a hitter or a situation. You really have to-to me-use the process of elimination and take something away and say, ‘This is what I’m going to go look for’ and if you get it you can’t miss it.
You look at a Jason Castro-offensively and defensively and in the clubhouse-another great night last night. Do you feel that he has fulfilled all that hope you had in spring training at this point in the season?
I think he’s doing everything that not only I myself (as manager of the organization) has asked but I think that Jason Castro has also placed high expectations on himself. Witnessing what we all believed when Jason was picked in the first round his maturation has taken place right before our eyes. It’s good to see because he’s worked so hard to get his health back right and get his game to a point that it’s at an elite level.
You’ve got a young team. Do you have any concern about dragging at all coming out of the All-Star break with the record being less than .500?
No, not at all if this were something that was an issue I would address it immediately. It’s not something that would be prolonged. This current stretch of games we’re playing-it’s a bunch of top notch teams who are playing well and we have not played good baseball so…you know, when you’re not playing good baseball it points to so many areas where you can look and say, ‘This is why we didn’t win this game.’
Coach, happy belated birthday as of yesterday.
Thank you, sir!
Speaking incrementally your team has team has won more games with each passing month. Are you happy with the progression as it stands today?
I am definitely happy with the progression we have made as a club. I am happy with the progression that a lot of our players have made individually. Until you gave me that stat I wasn’t aware as I do not keep up with the stats and numbers, the wins and the losses. I deal more with the day-to-day, the here and now but I think we are heading in the right direction from an organizational standpoint.
I think that our players here, we are finding out where we stand with our players. I am confident that with the players we have waiting in the wings along with the core players that we are building around we as an organization are very excited about the team, the future, and the direction we are going to be headed for a long, long time.
You have roots in Newark, (NJ). Mine are in Hoboken. That being said another stat I really like is how your starting pitching staff has an ERA (earned runs average) second only to the Oakland A’s to the tune of 3.39. From where I sit, you have nothing but upside.
Well (smiling) it all begins and ends with starting pitching. Our starting pitching has been pretty good for the last month and a half or so. Statistically, I don’t know what the numbers are but I know they have been taking us deep into games and they’ve been giving us a chance to win a game.
Each and every night out-obviously we had a little bit of a hiccup last night with Lucas Harrell as he didn’t have his good stuff-they (the Rangers) were able to put a few balls in the seats as they were getting deep in the counts. Get into some deep counts with a fastball hitting team you’re going to run into trouble anyway.
It’s very apparent watching Jose Altuve play the game and do so the right way, the team way. As a Dallas observer following the Astros I get the impression this team enjoys playing with one another. They’ve got each others back, they battle and grind to the final out. Win or lose there is no quit. That’s great to see!
It’s a testament to their fortitude. They come to the ballpark everyday. I mean obviously when you look at the win-loss record (32-55 at the time of the interview) that you’re not going to get maximum effort. But I think that there is a foundation that we have laid out as a staff. An expectation of what we anticipate and expect to be a Houston Astro. I don’t think that would ever be compromised because we’ve got the right people taking the field each and every day!
Thanks Coach! Best of luck the rest of the way in 2013.
Thank you again, sir!
Houston won on this night 9-5 on an off night for Yu Darvish…