WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Francis Martes has stood out in the early days of Astros camp for how hard he's throwing the ball, but that isn't the only thing manager A.J. Hinch noticed about him. The right-hander shed a few pounds in the offseason, and he's focusing on slowing down his delivery.
"It's coming with maturity and also the lessons he learned in the big leagues last year and being around so many guys," Hinch said. "If he can control the tempo and not be so high-strung during the game, pitch execution can get a little bit better.
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"He's throwing as hard as anybody in camp right now, which is mostly a good sign. It's still really early. He came very prepared, he came slimmed down a little bit, his delivery is a little bit better. All things we expected, but it's nice to see in person."
Martes, 22, appeared in 32 games for the Astros last year, making four starts, going 5-2 with a 5.80 ERA. He struck out 69 batters and walked 31 batters in 54 1/3 innings, but struggled with his control. He sprayed the ball when he rushed through his delivery.
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Martes said he weighs 243 pounds this year (down from 249 a year ago), but is carrying more muscle and less fat.
"My goal is starting in the big leagues, but the decision is up to [general manager] Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch," Martes said. "I'm ready for both. I'm ready for bullpen and starting. I'm not worried. My goal is the big leagues, but if the decision is to go to Triple-A, I'll go throw hard and wait for the big leagues. I'm ready for it."
Ferrell on getting call to camp
Astros pitching prospect Riley Ferrell was in a duck blind in Lubbock, Texas, in the offseason when he got the call that he was coming Astros camp as a non-roster invitee. It was a dream come true for Ferrell, a long-time Astros fan, and suddenly he didn't care about the ducks.
"I got a text message about 3:30 [p.m.], and the birds are starting to come in and I'm excited for that, and I was like, 'Forget the birds,'" he said.
Ferrell grew up in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles from Houston, and was a big Astros fan. His favorite Astros player growing up was Roger Clemens, but he admired Andy Pettitte, Craig Biggio and Billy Wagner, as well.
What's more, his college pitching coach at TCU was Kirk Saarloos, who pitched for the Astros from 2002-03.
"I went to my first Astros game at the Astrodome," Ferrell said. "I sat in the nosebleeds and had the binoculars with my dad. I was hooked. The old retro jerseys, the navy and gold. I went to my first game at Minute Maid, and I was in a box. My aunt had a little bit of a deal and we went and sat in the box and I was probably not even 10. Nothing really stuck out to me until Billy Wagner came out throwing fuel and the flames on the screen and everything. It was freaking sick. I got chills right now thinking of it."
Ferrell, the Astros' third-round pick out of TCU in 2015, is coming off a solid season spent mostly at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 3.81 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 innings in relief. He underwent surgery in mid-2016 to repair an aneurysm in his throwing shoulder area, but he is healthy.
Reddick on missile scare
Astros outfielder Josh Reddick was in Hawaii with his girlfriend during last month's missile scare. Reddick said he and his girlfriend were preparing to see dolphins when they got an alert on their cell phone that a ballistic missile was heading to the islands and to seek shelter.
It wasn't until 38 minutes later when an all-clear was sent that Reddick could breath easily.
"I went back to my room and it was actually frustrating, because me and my girlfriend were going to visit with the dolphins that morning," he said. "We got there on time. We got to play with the dolphins that morning. It was plenty of time. She wasn't even worried about dying; she was worried about seeing the dolphins. I said, 'Those dolphins can wait, we can see them tomorrow if we're still here.' Still had a great time."