KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros' new radio team of play-by-play voice Robert Ford and color analyst Steve Sparks arrived in camp Wednesday, and the two have been trying to get up to speed as much as they can prior to their first broadcast Saturday.
"The biggest challenge is not having names on the backs of jerseys," said Ford, who had served as the radio pre- and postgame host for Kansas City Royals games. "It's going to be a challenge, but you have to remember it's not all going to happen in a day and kind of take it slowly. Hopefully, by the end of Spring Training I'll have a pretty good handle on who's who."
Sparks says he was not going to push the issue of learning too much at once.
"I've done my work as far as following [the media]," Sparks said. "During the course of the season and during Spring Training, it will come naturally, getting to know guys a little bit better, having some conversations and seeing what makes them tick. And then talking to the pitching coach and hitting coaches and find out what guys are working on, so hopefully I can recognize that during the broadcast."
The new radio team is scheduled to broadcast 33 Spring Training games and all 162 regular-season games on SportsTalk 790, the new radio home of Astros baseball. Their first broadcast will be the Astros' Grapefruit League opener Saturday against the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT on MLB.TV.
Sparks says he and Ford will have good camaraderie.
"We've been trying to learn where each of us has come from," Sparks said. "I listen to how he speaks, when he trails off to determine my turn to speak and what's going to happen during the broadcast. He seems like a very engaging guy, very knowledgeable, and he's confident. He's going to do a great job, and I'm going to enjoy working with him."
Lineup finalized for opener against Phillies
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter unveiled his lineup for Saturday's Grapefruit League opener at 12:05 p.m. CT on MLB.TV against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.
With catcher Jason Castro, second baseman Jose Altuve and left-handed hitters Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace, Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez not making the trip to face Cole Hamels, Porter will get a look at Marwin Gonzalez at second base, Chris Carter at first base, Nate Freiman at designated hitter and Trevor Crowe in right field.
Porter said he wanted the regular position players to get between 50 and 70 at-bats in games.
"Some guys may need more, some guys may need less," he said. "A guy like Carlos Pena may feel like he's locked in with a week to go in camp. Altuve may feel the same way, or he may say, 'I need to play seven, eight, nine innings because I need extra at-bats.'"
Porter originally had Che-Hsuan Lin in right field against the Phillies, but the skipper got a surprise Wednesday when he told the Taiwanese outfielder he was in the lineup.
"He says, 'Bo, I'm not going to be here. I leave today,'" Porter said. "I said, 'Leave? Leave to go where?' He said, 'To the World Baseball Classic.' I knew he was going to the Classic, but I didn't know he was leaving [Wednesday]. I was under the impression all the guys going to the Classic were going to leave on March 2. That was a little bit of a shock, but we're glad that he's going to play for his country and represent his country, and we're in full support of that."
Lin is playing for Chinese Taipei in the Classic.
Camaraderie observed after intrasquad thriller
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros have spent all spring practicing their postgame handshakes, and Thursday they got a chance to work on their walk-off win celebration. Brandon Laird's RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning capped a four-run rally to send Team Ensberg to a 5-4 win over Team Everett in an intrasquad game at Osceola County Stadium.
"Never say die with the 'Stros," manager Bo Porter said. "That's outstanding. It was a great comeback with a lot of energy. It served a great purpose. They played the game the way it's supposed to be played and took advantage of mistakes the other team made."
Morgan Ensberg, who will be a Minor League coach this year, reveled in the win over his close friend, Adam Everett.
"Our motto the whole time is, 'That's what we do; we win,'" Ensberg said. "I'll be honest with you. It was the young guys that did it. Delino DeShields had some huge hits. Jake [Goebbert] in the bottom of the seventh hits the triple to tie it up. Chris Carter gets a couple of hits and Brandon Laird gets a couple of hits, and all of a sudden we're partying on the field."
Porter, who began the day by pitting the media against the players in a game of Family Feud, had the losing team serve banana splits to the winning team.
"You want to turn it into a little bit of fun," Porter said. "These guys have worked hard this entire camp, and now we're getting ready to play against opponents. … We put a small wager on the line, something we all like -- ice cream and banana splits."
Astros' prospects begin reporting to minicamp
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, and top prospect Jonathan Singleton were among 20 players who reported to the Minor League complex Thursday in advance of the start of Friday's minicamp.
"We want them to start working with the new coaches and just get them prepped for their season," director of player development Quinton McCracken said. "Of course, we have a nice blend of top talent in the system. We want to get those kids in and get them going and working with the new staff."
The pitchers invited to camp were right-handers Ruben Alaniz, Mike Foltynewicz, David Martinez, Lance McCullers Jr., Brady Rodgers, Nick Tropeano, Vincent Velasquez, Aaron West and Asher Wojciechowski. Left-hander Brian Holmes is also on the roster.
The catchers are Tyler Heineman, Jobduan Morales and Roberto Pena, and the infielders are Correa, Chase Davidson, Nolan Fontana, Jonathan Meyer, former first-round pick Jio Mier, Rio Ruiz and Singleton. No outfielders were officially invited, but Michael Burgess, Telvin Nash and Ruben Sosa reported early and may blend into the program.
The full Minor League camp begins March 3, when pitchers and catchers work out. Position players work out for the first time March 7, and Minor League games begin March 14.