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Crane pleased with path Astros have taken

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane has had big expectations for his team the last few years, and probably more than ever this year. Crane, in his sixth year of ownership, has bumped up the Opening Day payroll to a team-record $122 million following the signings of Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton and Carlos Beltran and the trade for Brian McCann.

"Our expectation is to make the playoffs and then make a run from there," Crane said prior to Monday's Opening Day game while sitting in the dugout.

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HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane has had big expectations for his team the last few years, and probably more than ever this year. Crane, in his sixth year of ownership, has bumped up the Opening Day payroll to a team-record $122 million following the signings of Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton and Carlos Beltran and the trade for Brian McCann.

"Our expectation is to make the playoffs and then make a run from there," Crane said prior to Monday's Opening Day game while sitting in the dugout.

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Crane said the team's path is on target with what he envisioned when he bought the club late in 2011 in that management rebuilt the farm system and has supplemented the Major League roster with free agents when warranted.

"We've been through a process," he said. "When I started out and we bought the team, we wanted to try to consistently put a ballclub on the field that could compete every year. I think we've seen that the last couple of years. That year gave us the luxury of going out and getting a few guys capable of really improving the team and probably the best team on paper we've put on the field since we've had it.

"... We've really had a budget to increase it every single year, which you've seen us do, and that's based upon the team improving and days like today, when we sell out and see some more revenue. The team's in good shape financially, and we'll continue to add to the payroll where we feel necessary and we'll make a good move."

McHugh on track for rehab start: Astros right-hander Collin McHugh is tentatively scheduled to start Thursday's season opener for Triple-A Fresno against Reno on rehab assignment. McHugh, who's building up arm strength after having fatigue in Spring Training, threw a simulated game Saturday in Florida and on Monday threw a bullpen session at Minute Maid Park.

It's unclear how many starts he would need on rehab assignment, but it would make sense logistically for him to join the Astros while they're on the West Coast next week. McHugh started the season on the 10-day disabled list.

"Hopefully, just one rehab start," McHugh said. "I should be able to get back up to five or six innings, 80 to 85 pitches, which would put you right about where you want to be for your first start coming into the season. It will depend on how [Thursday] goes and what the team looks like and what the coaches and front office want. Hopefully I'll be ready to go."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Collin McHugh