HOUSTON -- Smart phones and tablets have become as much of a staple in Major League Baseball clubhouses as shower shoes and sliding shorts, which is why the Astros have equipped their players to track their workouts on the go this offseason.
When a handful of Astros players gathered at Minute Maid Park on Monday to begin offseason workouts, they -- along with players who do not live in Houston in the offseason -- each had downloaded an app onto a mobile device to help the team track their progress during the winter.
The content of the app was created by Astros strength and conditioning coach Jake Beiting, Minor League strength and conditioning coach Brendan Verner and Triple-A strength and conditioning coach Alex Pounds. They recruited Astros senior technical architect Ryan Hallahan, who had experience producing apps, to create the framework.
"Our thought was that as over the years, technology has changed so much that this has become so much easier, and the players respond to it more so than a manual book," Beiting said. "We're just trying to be realistic what you could do that would be used by the players. We thought that as the best option."
Beiting said the Astros were not the first team to keep tabs on their players' offseason workout routines using modern technology like an app but that the Astros' app was easy to use and allowed the strength and conditioning staff to track players' progress.
Each player is given his personal login formation for the app, which comes in English and Spanish. From there, the players can access a calendar that is color-coded based on what they are going to do that day. The team's offseason workout regimen began Monday and includes basic circuit training three days a week and cardio activities.
Minor League and Major League players who live in Houston began working out in two groups at the ballpark Monday -- Minor Leaguers with no service time at 8 a.m. CT and players with service time at 10 a.m. CT unless they preferred the earlier session. About 12 players were expected to work out this week, including seven Major Leaguers.
The players should have spent the last four weeks on what Beiting calls "active rest," which means they were allowed to do activities like golfing or surfing but not anything baseball-related.
"Stay active, but don't sit on the couch for a month," Beiting said. "Just get away from it and recover and be ready to hit it hard for offseason."
The players will do basic fitness work until Nov. 11, when they start lifting weights, and they will generally not do baseball drills until after Thanksgiving.
But not every player is on the same workout plan. For instance, Major League players are on a different calendar from Minor League players. And those players participating in the Arizona Fall League are on different schedules from those who are not playing ball this winter.
Players who train in other cities or even other countries can access the app and make sure they are keeping up with what is going on in Houston. The app features the names of the exercises and how many reps and sets players should do on a specific day.
If a player wants to see the proper way to do a workout, he can click on a link that will call up a video demonstrating the routine. The players can then log their information into the app so the strength and conditioning staff can keep tabs on them.
"When we get later in the offseason, there's more stuff that gets added in," Beiting said. "There will be days guys are going to have warm-ups, speed work, lifting. That will all be laid out for them."
Among the Astros who began workouts at Minute Maid Park on Monday were pitchers Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Josh Zeid and outfielder Robbie Grossman. Third baseman Matt Dominguez and first baseman Brett Wallace are expected in Houston later in the week.
"A lot of players go home for a couple of months and come back in January and hit and throw and start getting back into the routine," Beiting said. "At that point, we're expecting 15-20. I'm sure we'll have guys come in town for a week and leave, but I'm excited about it. It should be fun."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.