WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In his final morning meeting with the players during Spring Training on Sunday, Astros manager AJ Hinch recognized three players -- outfielder Tony Kemp and pitchers Josh James and Framber Valdez -- that are making the Opening Day roster for the first time in their
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- In his final morning meeting with the players during Spring Training on Sunday, Astros manager AJ Hinch recognized three players -- outfielder Tony Kemp and pitchers Josh James and Framber Valdez -- that are making the Opening Day roster for the first time in their careers.
“Kemp’s been around this camp almost as long as I’ve been an Astro and it’s hard to believe he hadn’t made an Opening Day team until this year,” Astros director of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Josh James hadn’t pitched in a Major League Spring Training game, but had pitched in the playoffs, and now he’s on an Opening Day roster. And Framber, who competed really hard for the rotation. I don’t want him to feel minimalized at all for being moved to the bullpen. He should be very proud to be on this team.”
Hinch said the Astros' other players gave Kemp, James and Valdez a nice ovation.
“That Opening Day feeling, the nerves, the energy, the adrenaline, the goosebumps are still there whether you’re in the league for one year or 20 years,” Hinch said.
The Astros were scheduled to depart Florida following Sunday’s game against the Nationals and fly to Houston for exhibition games Monday and Tuesday against the Pirates. Houston will fly back to Florida on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s regular-season opener against the Rays in St. Petersburg.
“I also told the group, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better with how we went about our business,” Hinch said. “We felt like we had a good team coming in and you always have to find ways to create some sense of urgency and some areas for improvement.
“Our guys buy-in and put in work. We tailored the spring to each individual, and there’s a lot of people that go into that and organize it, but the player buying in is what makes it work. Our guys paid attention to the right things and prepared for the season.”
Astros outfielder Josh Reddick was scratched from the starting lineup of Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Nationals in the Grapefruit League finale because of back stiffness. Reddick said his back tightened up in the morning while he was putting on his socks and didn’t see the need to risk playing.
“I’ve had this back issue several times in my career, and it just kind of [came] up and we didn’t want to risk anything,” he said. “I got some treatment on it all morning and didn’t want to go out there and make it worse.”
Reddick, the Astros’ starting right fielder, said he will be ready to go on Opening Day.
“Last day of spring and there’s no upside in playing him through anything,” Hinch said. “He told me right before the game he was a little stiff and that was enough for me.”
Forrest Whitley, the No. 7-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, will start Monday’s exhibition game against the Pirates at 7:10 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. Will Harris, James and Valdez are scheduled to pitch in relief.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.