'Never stopped celebrating,' Hinch set for spring

January 12th, 2018

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Astros pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla., a month from now, signaling the end of the team's offseason spent celebrating its first World Series championship.

• Astros Spring Training information

The Astros, who beat the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series last year, have made the most of their place as the best team in baseball, and they are sharing it with fans again this week during the team's annual Caravan, which made several stops around Houston, as well as other parts of Texas.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch joined the Caravan on Friday and spoke of the anticipation for Spring Training.

"I'm ready because it'll be nice to turn the page and get to whatever's next," Hinch said. "It's exciting getting everybody back together in January, the anticipation for the spring is real. We have a lot of the same team coming back. It will be exciting to get together. I think our guys will be ready."

Hinch, who's entering his fourth season as Astros manager, said he's stayed in touch with most of the players in the offseason via text message or phone calls or even over lunch and dinner. He'll travel to California next weekend to attend the wedding of World Series Most Valuable Player , with whom he's extremely close.

"It's the only way to really stay connected with these guys is to do it year-round," Hinch said. "We have such a fun group, and that's a group that's engaging, we never really lose touch."

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While they've been celebrating their championship, the Astros have been relatively quiet in Hot Stove action, except for the signing of relievers Joe Smith and . Those are important pieces to the bullpen, but Houston brings back a loaded lineup and deep starting rotation. Astros third baseman said Thursday the team is looking forward to the "back-to-back tour," and Hinch expects the team to embrace the repeat challenge.

"We are the only team that has a chance to repeat, but we have to do the work to put ourselves in that position," the manager said. "We know how hard it is. We did it once, and our guys will be hungry to do it again. We'll embrace the opportunity, but it's going to take a lot of work."

With so many free agents available, the Astros could still add another piece. Reports they were close to a trade to land Pirates ace proved false, but general manager Jeff Luhnow always tries to be opportunistic in the offseason.

"We can also be very stingy with what we do because we have a really good team coming back," Hinch said. "We have a lot of guys that spots are already locked up. There's not a ton of opportunity to play on our team, so if there's impact out there, and Jeff sees fit to add them to our mix, then we'll work them in."

The Astros distributed 41,000 vouchers to fans for their annual FanFest on Saturday at Minute Maid Park -- a sellout. It was the final chance for fans to celebrate the team's success en masse before the start of a new season.

"We've never stopped celebrating," Hinch said. "The fans have been incredible. This city is in love with this team for all the right reasons. We want to keep making them proud, but it's been fun to share it with all the fans."