First-year skipper discusses mindset as Astros evaluate young talent
NEW YORK -- The thing Astros manager Bo Porter likes most about playing his home games at Minute Maid Park? There will never be a rainout.
That was one of the tidbits the first-year manager shared with fans, who were able to ask Porter questions on Tuesday afternoon through Facebook, Twitter and video in the latest version of the Edward Jones Chatting Cage on MLB.com.
In addition to touching on Minute Maid Park, Porter talked about the process of turning the Astros into champions, what he misses about his time with the Nationals and what makes All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve a great player.
"He's in his second full season and already has been an All-Star and is arguably one of the best pure hitters in our game," Porter said. "You just love coming to the park and watching him play every day. He plays the game with passion and energy and plays it the way it's supposed to be played. He's a joy for me to manage each and every day, and fans are just starting to realize how good of a player he is."
After spending two seasons as the third-base coach of the Washington Nationals, Porter took over an Astros club that's rebuilding and focusing on youth and player development. He remains steadfast in supporting the team's direction and is committed to its young players.
Of course, with so many young players occupying key roles, there are going to be growing pains. A fan from College Station, Texas, wanted to know how Porter deals with those.
"At the Major League level, a lot of people think they're finished products," Porter said. "That's definitely not the case. There are always teachable moments that happen through the course of the day. This is a performance-based league, and sometimes you have to use your emotional sensitivities and pick the right time to talk to a player.
"As a staff, we take advantage of all the teachable moments because we know how these guys have grown. So it could be in-game conversations, postgame conversations or it might be the next day you grab the player and reenact and go over the situation."
Porter set the tone early in Spring Training, telling his players to focus on the process of getting better each day and ignoring the big picture.
"It's one of the things we set out [to do] early in Spring Training when I first took the job -- focus on the process," Porter said. "A lot of times people look at the desired results, which are wins and losses. If you spend more time focusing on the process, you'll get the desired results that allow you to come to the park each and every day with a clear head and focusing on the task at hand."
A fan from Philadelphia asked Porter via video about how moving to the American League changes the team's chances of making the playoffs.
"I think one of the best things we have now is more balanced scheduling," Porter said. "Now that you have 15 teams in each league, you get into Interleague Play and it gives all the teams in your division the opportunity to play against the same teams. That gives everybody the best chance to make it to the postseason, as far as the schedule balance."
Astros fan Lee White from Beaumont, Texas, asked Porter about rookie pitcher Paul Clemens, who made his debut earlier this year.
"He came into spring as one of the guys fighting for a rotation spot and ended up not making the five-man rotation out of camp, but he went down to Triple-A and had a couple of starts and pitched well," Porter said. "We had a spot open for a long guy, and he came here and did a tremendous job out of the bullpen. He actually leads Major League Baseball in innings pitched out of the bullpen, and we expect him to continue to develop."
Porter and Altuve are two of the young players the Astros are counting on for the future, but the veterans -- guys like Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel -- will continue to make an impact. A fan from Houston asked Porter about the veteran leadership.
"I think a lot of times when you have a young ballclub, the best thing you can do is find the right veteran players, and I stress the word right," Porter said. "We have surrounded young guys with quality veteran baseball players that have played on winning teams, that have played on playoff baseball teams and world championship teams."
Watching how veteran players go about their business is more important than what they do on the field, Porter says.
"If you watch the way Carlos Pena goes about pregame preparation and playing the game, if you are a young guy and you aspire to play 12, 13, 14 years in the big leagues, it only makes good sense to say, 'This is how it's done,'" Porter said. "Those guys have done a tremendous job on and off the field and [as] veterans on this ballclub."
As far as his old friends with the Nationals, Porter keeps in touch with several of those players via text message and through a faith-based book club.
"Obviously, I follow them with great interest because I have a lot of great friends there," Porter said.