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News » Houston Astros Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01

Houston Astros Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01

Houston Astros Notes, Quotes 2009-03-01
--SS Miguel Tejada initially declined an invitation to play in the World Baseball Classic, saying he would have only played first base for the Dominican Republic. He changed his mind and joined the national team when he was told he could play shortstop, third base and DH.

Tejada's absence will allow manager Cecil Cooper to look at six other players he's at shortstop this spring. That group includes Edwin Maysonet, Tommy Manzella, Jason Smith, Matt Kata, Drew Sutton and Geoff Blum.

--OF Darin Erstad is playing with a fracture near his right eye, which he hurt Feb. 23 when he missed a sinking line drive during outfield drills off a machine.

Erstad, who was 1-for-2 with a walk in his Grapefruit League debut Feb. 26, says he didn't have any problems playing with the fracture. He did compensate to protect the eye in the first inning when he was caught trying to steal second base after leading off with an infield single to short.

"I ducked and put my head down so it would hit the top of my helmet," he said.

--Astros icon Jeff Bagwell, a special assistant to general manager Ed Wade, arrived at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday.

"I'm excited," he said. "Obviously this is a different thing for me to come down to spring training. People ask me if I miss it. Then I get here and I find out there's an intrasquad game, so I'm missing the game that much.

"It's going to be fun to see the guys. The minor league kids come (report) in a couple days, which will be great for me to get reacquainted and watch their progress."

--1B Lance Berkman was hampered by a sore left shoulder at the start of spring training, forcing manager Cecil Cooper to wait until the second game of the Grapefruit League season to play his All-Star.

"It's just sore, but it's no problem," Berkman said.

--Unable to reach an agreement with Hunter Pence before Grapefruit League play started, the Astros have decided to renew the outfielder's contract at the rate they see fit, which is likely going to be below $450,000.

Because Pence isn't eligible for arbitration yet, the club can renew his contract and unilaterally choose his salary.

"I talked to Hunter (on Feb. 24) and told him this is part of the system and what we try to do is be fair with our guys within our own organization," general manager Ed Wade said. "We're not necessarily interested in being the highest-paying club or certainly not the lowest-paying club. We want to be right in the middle.

"We feel our system is fair. He said, 'Hey, I'll let my guys handle it. I'm just here to play baseball. And I said, 'That's why we use the first day before the games to conclude these negotiations. So we'll do the ... renewal on the day that's allowed."

Pence is likely to be eligible for arbitration next winter as long as he remains in the majors all season.

"I don't even understand any of that part of the game," Pence said. "I understand how to play baseball and how to prepare to help the team win."

--INF David Newhan faces long odds in his battle for a utility infield spot.

Newhan, who started at second on Feb. 26, likely would need Geoff Blum, Kaz Matsui or Aaron Boone to be hurt this spring to open the season with the Astros.

"There's a whole bunch of other guys that I have to take a look at before I get to that point," Cecil Cooper said when asked if Newhan would play short this spring. "He did tell me that he could play it. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Utility infielders whom Cecil Cooper hopes to watch play shortstop extensively this spring to see if they can fill in when Miguel Tejada rests.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's always been really important for me to represent my country. It's something that I've done for a long time. It's something that I've considered a part of my life to represent my country. At the same time, I have to realize that this is the last year in my contract and I need to work hard because I want to show all the other teams that there's still a lot left in me. God willing I want to start the season well to see if Houston wants me to stay here, which would be my desire." -- SS Miguel Tejada, after declining the Dominican Republic's invitation to play first base in the World Baseball Classic. When his national team said he could play short, third base and DH, Tejada changed his mind and decided to play in the WBC.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 1, 2009

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