KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Josh Fields says he had no idea what to expect on the eve of the Rule 5 Draft, but he didn't want to wake up on Dec. 6 and wait around for something to happen. So he let all the text messages on his phone that morning serve as notice that something had, in fact, happened.
The Astros selected him first overall, hoping to immediately install him in their bullpen. It was just the kind of opportunity the Mariners' first-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft was looking for.
"I was just hoping to get picked up somewhere, and I was really, really excited when Houston picked me up," Fields said Friday morning at his locker in the Astros clubhouse. "I was super pumped, and being here with the team and the staff, it's awesome. I haven't been a part of a club like this yet, and I'm really, really excited to see what the season's going to hold."
Fields can admit now that he thought last year about earning a promotion to the Red Sox or a spot on their 40-man roster toward the end of his excellent Minor League campaign. He put together the best season of his young career with Double-A Portland and earned a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he threw 13 2/3 scoreless innings.
"I don't know what goes into that stuff. It's not personal, and they're not trying to mess anybody up. They're just doing what they think's best," Fields said. "I think the Lord did bless me big-time last year, and I threw well. I think that I could've easily had an opportunity up there, but it didn't work out that way. It's nothing personal, and I'm really excited to have this opportunity this year."
Fields, 27, posted a 2.01 ERA and racked up 78 strikeouts over 58 1/3 innings, an average of 12 per nine innings. Perhaps more importantly, Fields dramatically cut down on his walk totals, dropping from 6.7 per nine innings in 2011 to just 2.8 in '12. He credits Portland's pitching coach, Bob Kipper, for helping him simplify his delivery and find a more consistent routine.
Fields is attempting to carry that success over to his first Spring Training with the Astros. He has surrendered three runs in 5 1/3 innings over five Grapefruit League appearances entering Friday's game against the Pirates, allowing five hits while walking three and striking out four. He said he's just focused on building up strength, ironing out his mechanics and working on his curveball, a pitch that caught manager Bo Porter's eye as Fields began throwing it more.
"His breaking ball, it's a money pitch for him," Porter said. "Now that he's starting to use his breaking ball, we're anxious to see how things are going to be his next few outings."
Peacock uses all four pitches in five-inning outing
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brad Peacock took the mound Friday afternoon against the Pirates with the typical Spring Training goals: build up his endurance and get a handle on all his pitches. Neither plan got off to a great start, but the end result couldn't have been much better.
Peacock gave up a run on three second-inning hits, but got nine outs against the final nine Pirates he faced at Osceola County Stadium. He used all four of his pitches, got a feel for his curveball and lasted a full five innings.
Peacock allowed just one run on four hits and a walk, striking out four on 84 pitches, including 50 strikes.
"Peacock was outstanding," Astros manager Bo Porter said after his club's 3-2 loss. "Attacked the strike zone, broke out his breaking ball more today and used it more efficiently to get back into counts, threw some really good changeups and pounded the strike zone, which was good to see."
Peacock said he couldn't find his signature curveball in the early going, spiking it into the dirt or leaving it too high in the zone. But he clearly found it by the end of the third, when he struck out Pirates catcher Russell Martin on a nasty curve.
He went out on an encouraging note as well, punching out Michael McKenry with another solid curveball. Peacock attributed some of that improvement to a conversation with right-hander Bud Norris.
"Bud, in the dugout, kind of told me a few things, a couple pointers, and it worked out there in the fourth and fifth," Peacock said. "It's usually my best pitch. It's taking me a while to get it right now. I'll work with [pitching coach Doug] Brocail in the next bullpen and we'll figure it out."
Singleton, Correa set to join Astros on Saturday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros will get a glimpse at the brightest part of their future Saturday, when top prospects Jonathan Singleton and Carlos Correa will join the big league club for its matchup against the Nationals in Viera, Fla.
Astros manager Bo Porter said Friday he wanted to give some of his regulars the day off as the club travels to Space Coast Stadium for a 5:05 p.m. CT game. That opened up an opportunity for Singleton, Correa, outfielder Domingo Santana and a few pitchers who will also join the Astros from Minor League camp. It will be Porter's first real look at Correa, the first overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
"I haven't been able to see much of him," Porter said. "That's part of the reason why we're going to bring him over on Saturday."
Singleton, ranked the Astros' No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, hit .284 with an .893 OPS, 21 homers and 79 RBIs for Double-A Corpus Christi last year. The lefty-swinging 21-year-old will sit out the first 50 games of the regular season, serving a suspension for his second violation of Minor League Baseball's drug policy, but he will start Saturday against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.
Correa, 18, played for two of the Astros' rookie-ball affiliates after they drafted him last June, batting a combined .258 with a .705 OPS. Porter said he only saw the right-handed-hitting shortstop in a simulated game this spring.
The 20-year-old Santana, the Astros' 13th-ranked prospect who spent last year with Class A Advanced Lancaster, finished second in the California League in slugging percentage (.536), third in RBIs (97) and fifth in homers (23) while posting a .302 average and .385 on-base percentage.
Harrell, Bedard ready to return to game action
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Lucas Harrell and lefty Erik Bedard will both be back on the mound this weekend.
Harrell, the Astros' pitcher of the year in 2012, will start Saturday's 5:05 p.m. CT game against the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. Harrell threw a bullpen session Wednesday and felt fine after skipping his turn in the rotation Sunday due to a groin injury.
Manager Bo Porter said Friday the Astros will monitor Harrell on an inning-by-inning basis, checking his pitch count and evaluating how he feels before deciding whether to send him back to the mound. Porter admitted Harrell, a candidate to be Houston's Opening Day starter, was "set back a little bit" by the injury.
"He's had some good side sessions, but at the same time, he missed a turn," Porter said. "So we will lean on the side of being careful as he takes the mound tomorrow."
Harrell went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts last season and has given up three runs on 10 hits with five strikeouts and two walks in nine innings this spring.
Bedard, who threw a shutout inning against the Nationals on Wednesday, will pitch in relief Sunday against the Blue Jays at Osceola County Stadium. Bedard had been sidelined by a strained gluteal muscle.
Bedard has thrown three innings in two Grapefruit League appearances, allowing one unearned run on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
• The Astros managed only three hits and three walks against the Pirates in Friday's 3-2 loss, despite being one of the more productive offenses so far in Spring Training. They scored both of their runs in the ninth on two walks and a two-run single by Jose Martinez and brought the potential winning run to the plate, but Rene Garcia grounded into a force out to end the rally.
"We had opportunities. We just didn't get the big hit today," Porter said. "We had runners on base. Even that last inning there, we put ourselves in position with the go-ahead run making it to the batter's box. That's all you can ask each and every night, that you give yourself a chance."
• As part of his preparation for his first season as Houston's manager, Porter spent time this offseason watching every single game of the Astros' 2012 season. He said he wanted to know everything he possibly could about the team he was joining, so he talked to his players over the winter and watched every game -- sometimes as many as 10 a day.
• Porter was asked Friday morning how he plans to utilize platoons, whether it will be strictly based on whether the pitcher is right-handed or left-handed, or if anything else goes into that decision. Porter responded, "It has a lot to do with the pitcher. A lot of times, you can look at the righty-lefty situation, but you may have a pitcher who, his stuff just [doesn't] match up [or] he gets the ball in the area in which our guy handles the plate well. We'll look at those situations, depending on the opponent."