CLEVELAND -- .Former Astros manager Brad Mills is nearing the end of his first season as the third-base coach for the Indians and appears content about the way things unfolded about 13 months following his dismissal in Houston
Mills was reunited with former college roommate and close friend Terry Francona, who has the Indians in the American League Wild Card hunt in the final two weeks of the season. Mills was Francona's bench coach with the Red Sox before taking over as manager of the Astros in 2010.
"The whole situation has been good," Mills said. "Terry has been great. It's a fun coaching staff to be with, and [hitting coach] Ty [Van Burkleo] has done a great job with these guys. It's a good group, especially to be able to come together like they have and play for something at the end."
Mills went 171-274 in his nearly three years at the helm of the Astros, who were slowly dismantled shortly after he took over. The roster turnover hasn't stopped, and there are very few players remaining from Mills' time in Houston.
"I look at [Jose] Altuve and how he's doing and Brandon Barnes, who was there very little with me," Mills said. "Guys like Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Corporan and Brett Wallace you follow because you were with those guys for almost three years. I care about these guys and they're good people."
Astros arrive late to Cleveland after extra-innings tilt
CLEVELAND -- After playing a five-hour, 18-minute game against the Reds on Wednesday night in Houston, the Astros didn't arrive at their downtown Cleveland hotel until about 6:30 a.m. ET on Thursday.
With that in mind, manager Bo Porter told his players they didn't have to arrive at the ballpark until only two hours prior to the game, giving them a couple of extra hours. They also didn't take batting practice on the field before the game against the Indians at Progressive Field.
Porter, who was on his second cup of coffee while meeting with the media Thursday afternoon, said he would like to play more day games on getaway days in the regular season to avoid late-night arrivals like they had in Cleveland.
"It's something that we -- [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and myself -- we'll sit down and look at next year's schedule and try to do everything we can to not have ourselves in those situations," Porter said. "Sometimes you can't avoid it when you're on the road and the visiting team picks certain games' [start times] and you just have to go with the schedule. From your end at home, you definitely want to try to avoid getting into a city when you arrive at 5, 6 in the morning and have to play the same day."
Astros designated hitter Marc Krauss likened Thursday morning's early travel to the Minor Leagues, when teams routinely traveled through the night to get to a destination.
"A lot of us in this clubhouse, we're not that far removed from all that [Minor League] travel," Krauss said. "I think we'll be fine. Everybody probably got enough rest to suffice for the night. Speaking for myself, I feel pretty good."
Krauss excited to return home in spoiler opportunity
CLEVELAND -- This weekend's series against the Indians at Progressive Field will serve as somewhat of a homecoming for Astros designated hitter Marc Krauss, who grew up as an Indians fan in Deshler, Ohio, which is about 148 miles west of Cleveland.
Krauss, who attended Ohio University, said he's leaving about 15-20 tickets for each game against the Indians.
"This was my team growing up," Krauss said. "I've been here I don't know how many times, watching the Indians when they were one of the best teams in the league in the late '90s for a stretch. I've been here a lot. It's pretty awesome to come back here and be playing and try to knock them out of the playoff push."
Krauss always envisioned himself getting to play at Progressive Field as a member of the Indians, but playing against them? That might be even better.
"I think it's even cooler to be in the stadium and have everybody excited to make the playoffs," Krauss said. "They've had a real good season and are a really good team. We're trying to play our game and do what we can to ruin some of those dreams."
Astros consider changes to outfield configuration
CLEVELAND -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Thursday that Tal's Hill -- the incline in center field at Minute Maid Park -- would return next year, but he hinted some changes could be made to the center field configuration down the road.
Luhnow said the Astros are still debating what center field will look like long-term from a standpoint of dimensions and potentially some features that could be added from a fan-enjoyment perspective, but it's status quo for 2014.
"There's a lot of considerations," Luhnow said. "There's marketing and customer experience considerations, but from a baseball operations perspective, do we want to risk having George Springer or Brandon Barnes run up the hill and potentially risk an injury? That's something that's definitely a consideration."
Springer, of course, is the team's No. 3 prospect and the center fielder of the future. Though the hill is certainly a novelty, no one has yet to be injured running up the incline to field a ball, so the injury risk appears minimal.
"My sense is there were more balls on the hill this year than last year," Luhnow said. "I don't know if that's because hitters hit the balls further or our outfielders are getting to those more. There seems to be more plays made on the hill, but all it takes is one twisted ankle.
"It hasn't happened yet -- knock on wood -- but since we play more games here than anybody else, if it's going to happen, it's likely going to happen to one of our players, and all it takes is one twisted ankle for it not to be worth it."
Conversely, Luhnow said the spacious center field -- which stretches 436 feet away from home plate - could be attractive to lure free-agent pitchers.
"A lot of balls get run down that would be out of other parks," Luhnow said. "There's definitely a lot to think about when you configure the dimensions of a ballpark. We just haven't made any decisions."