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Porter ready to see continued development in 2014

Second-year skipper eyes progress from young club after 111-loss season

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The 2014 season can't come soon enough for Astros manager Bo Porter. He's ready to put last season behind him -- and who could him blame after a club-record 111 losses? -- and he's eager to see how his young roster and some new additions start blending together.

Porter's first season as manager in 2013 was certainly eventful. He was put in charge of a rebuilding club that was committed to getting a look at rookies at key positions while trying to keep its head above water in the rugged American League West.

The Astros -- who have acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler, relief pitcher Chad Qualls and starting pitcher Scott Feldman in the last eight days -- certainly don't figure to contend next season. Porter says, however, progress will be measured in more than the standings.

"We definitely want to win more games," Porter said. "But to take that step forward, we had to evaluate our core pieces and figure out, 'OK, what pieces can we add to this core to make us a better baseball team?' I think we've taken the necessary steps to do that because we have more established players and we've added veteran players to that core group. You look at our roster, and we overall have a better group of talented players. That's going to equate to more wins on the baseball field."

The future hinges on a farm system that is among the best in baseball, and many of those prospects made their way to Houston last season. The Astros believe they've found their third baseman in Matt Dominguez, catcher in Jason Castro, a starting outfielder in Robbie Grossman and a starting shortstop in Jonathan Villar.

Like last year, there figures to be plenty of competition heading into 2014, and that's be expected from a team trying to shake off three consecutive 100-plus-loss seasons.

"So a lot of our spots that were open last year, we have players that have basically taken the bull by the horns and established themselves in those positions," Porter said. "But there are still a lot of positions where competition will exist, and there will be competition within our ballclub just to improve on what it is."

George Springer, the Astros' top prospect, figures to hit Houston at some point next season and should be a big part of the future. Porter hinted Wednesday at an outfield configuration that would include Grossman in left field, Fowler in center field and Springer in right field, which would mean a position change for Springer.

All that matters to Porter is that his outfield will be extremely athletic.

"That is one of the areas in which [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and I talked, about getting more athletic in the outfield. I think it definitely saves you runs," he said. "If you have three guys in the outfield that all have played center field, your defense instantly gets better.

"So having George Springer, Dexter Fowler, Robbie Grossman -- three guys that have pretty much predominantly played center field most of their career -- and now you look out there and you have Grossman in left, Springer in right and Fowler in center, your team just got better."

Porter doesn't want to focus on a win-loss record for 2014, saying only he expects his club to take a big step forward. That will mean the youngsters continue to improve at an expected rate and the roster additions pay dividends.

"Collectively we can look at our 2013 season, and we will not spend a lot of time talking about 2013 as a whole, just because I want to put that season behind us and really look forward to the bright future that we have for the Houston Astros organization," he said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros