The Houston Astros have a new manager, new uniforms, new mascot and a relatively new owner.
The biggest change is the Astros will play in a new league.
After playing 51 years in the National League, the Astros were moved to the American League West.
Because of interleague play, players are accustomed to games with a designated hitter. But players at the Astros caravan Friday afternoon at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark said there will be an adjustment period.
“I haven't been through this. None of our guys have been through this,” said pitcher Jordan Lyles. “We just have to learn on the run. At the same time, it's not that different. You still try to attack hitters' weaknesses.”
The Astros are one of the youngest teams in baseball. Right-hander Bud Norris is the longest-tenured Astro. And he's only been in the majors 3½ years. Gains made this season will benefit the team in the future.
“It's definitely going to be an adjustment for players, coaches, fans, everyone in the organization,” Norris said. “We have to report to spring training and be ready to learn. I'm sure our manager, Bo Porter, will tell us how we're going to approach it.
“I loved being involved with the offensive side in the National League. But the way I look at it is we didn't have any control over it. The American League is a different game. We have to look at the positives. My job still is to get three outs every inning.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, who retired after 59 years calling games for seven different Major League teams, the past 28 with the Astros, is old-school. He's not a big fan of the DH but said the organization prepared for the switch.
“The DH is different, which is why they got Carlos Pena,” Hamilton said. “They'll try to play long ball a little more.”
One advantage is the DH allows players to stay in the lineup without taking a day off.
“It will give guys a break on their legs when they need it,” said outfielder Justin Maxwell, who led the team with 18 home runs his first season. “But most DHs are veterans who play that role most every day.”
Houston joins a division that includes the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, two perennial powers with high payrolls. Oakland won the AL West last season. Seattle has some highly ranked young talent.
“The A's are a young team that learned on the fly. No one expected them to do anything and they ended up winning the division,” Maxwell said. “On paper, our division is pretty tough. But it's the same for everyone on opening day.”
The young, rebuilding Astros are coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons, including a franchise-worst 107 losses last season. But there is some highly rated talent in the organization, including some players that will start the season with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, Houston's Triple-A affiliate.
“It's going to be tough,” Lyles said. “It's arguably the best division in baseball. We're young but have another year under our belts. We know the challenges in front of us. We're looking forward to the new start, new manager, new uniforms and will hit the ground running.”
Many of the Astros' changes are actually retro. New uniforms feature orange and blue, the primary colors for three decades after the franchise was founded in 1962.
One uniform will feature the famous rainbow print worn from 1975-1993. A redesigned green space creature named “Orbit” was the team's mascot in the 1990s.
“This season is exciting for a lot of reasons,” Norris said. “With the new group, the new logo and new manager, we're taking strides in the right direction. On the field, there's a youth movement that hopefully can come up and help the club sooner rather than later. Everyone is excited about the future.”