HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros begin the Jim Crane era on Friday night against the Colorado Rockies, fielding a team filled with young players looking to bounce back from a season that was the franchise's worst.
The sale of the team from Drayton McLane to Crane was completed in November. Crane immediately began looking for ways to improve the Astros in their last year as a member of the National League — also the 50th anniversary of the franchise. A condition of the sale requires a move to the AL West in 2013.
Crane insists that the team, which went 56-106 last season, will be better in 2012.
The new ownership group is looking long-term, meaning the Astros will give young players — and a lot of them — a chance to play this season.
The Astros hired general manager Jeff Luhnow in the offseason after firing Ed Wade, and Luhnow made it clear everyone would have to compete for their jobs this spring.
"These guys are ready to go and I'm excited to see what they can do," Luhnow said. "There's a lot of energy in the clubhouse ... and there's going to be a lot of excitement here on Friday."
Houston first baseman Carlos Lee appreciates the work the new owner and executives have done this offseason, but knows in the end they don't determine the results.
"A lot of times you can make all the changes above and in the front office and all that and the game is the same. It's still up to us to go out there and perform and try to win games," he said.
Jeremy Guthrie, in his first year with the Rockies, will make his fourth career opening day start when he faces Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. Last year's opening day starter, Brett Myers, is Houston's closer.
Guthrie went 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA last season with the Orioles.
"It was a good spring," he said. "I got the work in I wanted and the opportunity to work on the things I wanted — particularly the location of my off-speed pitches — and get acquainted with my new teammates. And I stayed healthy. That's an important thing, too."
The Rockies hope to rebound from a disappointing season after beefing up an offense which already included Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, with Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro and Ramon Hernandez. Guthrie is looking forward to pitching with that offense behind him.