LAKELAND, Fla. -- After managing the Astros for the final 41 games of the 2012 season, following the dismissal of Brad Mills, Tony DeFrancesco has returned this year to his previous role as manager of the club's Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate.
Astros manager Bo Porter has leaned heavily on DeFrancesco since taking the job last fall and has used him as a sounding board.
"He is a true baseball professional, so I think he's embraced everything that's been in place here," Porter said. "He's completely on board with the organization and we're excited to have Tony. I lean on him a lot to ask him about some of the players because a lot of these guys he's managed."
This season will mark DeFrancesco's third as a Triple-A manager. He went 16-25 as interim manager of the Astros last year, including a 15-15 mark in the final 30 games of the season. He was among a handful of candidates that interviewed for the full-time managerial job that went to Porter.
"Bo's been great and the coaching staff has been great," DeFrancesco said. "I know a lot of the guys that were here last year and hopefully I can give them some of my recommendations, and so far everything is going great."
DeFrancesco still has Major League managerial aspirations, and said he'll always cherish beating the Mets at Citi Field last year for his first win. He grew up in Suffern, N.Y., which isn't too far from New York City.
"It's something I'll always remember," he said. "It's an opportunity I had and hopefully one day I get another shot at it, but right now I'm happy to be here and happy to help the guys and see this organization go in the right direction."
Porter believes Springer matches up with Hunter
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Astros prospect George Springer had a chance to spend a few moments on Monday talking with Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, whom Springer grew up idolizing. The meeting was arranged by Astros manager Bo Porter, who considers Hunter one of his closest friends in baseball.
Porter has said several times this spring that Springer's game -- speed, power, high energy -- is reminiscent of Hunter, a former All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, and he thought it would be a good idea for Springer to latch onto him as a possible mentor.
"I told George, 'When you are a young Major League player, you want to kind of find someone that possesses the same skill set you possess, has played a high level and you want pick that person's brain,'" Porter said. "That's why I put him in touch with Torii Hunter. They're going to exchange numbers, and he's a great mentor for George to latch onto that would really help him as he progresses in his Major League career."
Springer grew up in Connecticut and actually met Hunter while he was playing at Double-A New Britain in the Twins' organization from 1997-98. He told his father he liked the way Hunter played the game, diving for balls and running into the wall to make a play if he had to.
"He's always been the guy who I look up to ever since," he said. "It's going to be a great honor to see him play again in person. I see the highlights of him all the time and he's obviously a fantastic player. He plays the game the right way."
Springer said being compared to Hunter is an honor.
"It's something special to me as a kid, especially as a player, for Bo to compare you to anybody," he said. "I'm obviously extremely thankful what Bo's done for me. He's given me an opportunity, and I'm going to go out and play and have fun."
Porter says Astros need to tighten up defense
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Manager Bo Porter was clearly unhappy with his club's defense in recent days. The Astros committed two more errors in Monday's 8-5 Grapefruit League loss to the Tigers -- one leading to an unearned run.
Since taking over the team, Porter has stressed the importance of fundamentals and not giving the opposition extra outs, but that's exactly what the Astros have been doing -- committing 15 errors in 11 games.
"We've got to catch the ball," he said. "We've come back from every deficit we've had this entire spring. Offensively, we're scoring runs, but at the same time we've got to make it a little bit easier on our pitching staff to catch the ball when it's hit to us, and our pitchers got to do a better job of pitching ahead in the count and limiting some of those deep counts."
Jonathan Villar committed an error at shortstop in the second inning, though it didn't lead to any runs. Jake Elmore's error allowed Alex Avila to reach to the start the fifth inning, and he eventually scored.
"This is Major League Baseball and to play in his league you have make those plays," Porter said.
When asked how he would address the errors, Porter didn't mince words.
"This is the thing: either you make the plays or we're going to find someone else who's going to make them. That's not hard to figure out," he said.
Foltynewicz eyeing continued success in 2013
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Coming off a season in which he was the named the Astros' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts at Class A Lexington, right-hander Mike Foltynewicz knows his biggest challenges are still ahead.
"I had a good year last year, and I proved myself to a lot of people after coming out in a bad way the first couple of years," said Foltynewicz, who owns a 5-14 record and a 4.74 ERA in his first two years in the system after being selected 19th overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. "I'm really excited to see what happens this year and keep that momentum going forward."
Foltynewicz came over from Minor League camp on Sunday and worked a scoreless inning in a Grapefruit League game against the Pirates. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Foltynewicz could get his feet wet at Double-A this year.
"He had a great year last year and it was good to see him go out and face Major League hitters, and do a good job," Luhnow said. "We're going to take it easy with him as well. I would not be surprised if he spent some time this year at Double-A and have some success there. The next two levels for him are very difficult levels for pitchers, and he's going to face some adversity."
Astros still week away from first roster cuts
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Monday that the team is probably still about a week away from making its first roster cuts of the spring.
Spring Training has begun on the Minor League side, but the Astros won't send out any players until they can play in a Minor League spring contest. Games begin on March 14.
"It's tough to send anybody back if you're not going to be able to participate in competitive games yet," Luhnow said. "Maybe by next week at this time, we'll have our first moves."
By next week, starting pitchers will be stretched out to about five innings, which means there will be fewer innings to go around, so trimming some pitchers will be a priority. Starting position players are going to progressively play deeper into games, which also limits playing time of others.
The Astros have 61 players in camp and will need to be at 25 by Opening Day.
"[Cuts] is something we'll look at once they start playing games down there," manager Bo Porter said. "We still have games we're playing here and they're all getting their work done, but once they start playing games in the Minor Leagues we'll start to look at trimming the roster."