CLEVELAND -- Astros manager Bo Porter will serve as the honorary captain for the University of Iowa football team when it faces Michigan State during its homecoming game Oct. 5 in Iowa City, Iowa. He spoke with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz about the honor on Friday.
Porter was a three-year football letterman at Iowa from 1992-94, earning team MVP honors as a senior. He was also Iowa's starting center fielder in '93, hitting .318 with 33 RBIs, eight doubles, four home runs and nine stolen bases.
"It's going to be exciting," he said. "My wife [Stacey] and I always go back. To be asked to be honorary captain, it's an honor, especially at a place where you played. It's always an exciting time to see the University of Iowa play, but it's even more exciting when you start to factor in homecoming and having a bunch of your teammates back in town."
Porter said he will attend the team's walkthrough the Friday prior to the game and talk to the players pregame. There will be a homecoming dinner Friday night that he and his wife will attend before being on the field for the coin flip.
Club plans to honor former Astros pitcher Pettitte
CLEVELAND -- Members of the Astros' front office met Friday in Houston to discuss the proper way to honor Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' pitcher who announced his retirement. Pettitte, a Houston-area native, played for the Astros from 2004-06 and will finish his career next weekend at Minute Maid Park.
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said the club plans to honor Pettitte and hopes to have a plan in place by early next week.
"We only have three [home] games left, but without a doubt, we want to do something to honor Andy, because he's had a great career and he's a former Houston Astro and a Deer Park kid," Ryan said. "We just need to figure out what the right thing is to do that you can make meaningful in a short amount of time."
The Astros are already planning to honor Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who announced earlier this year he was retiring, prior to the Sept. 29 season finale. The club plans to present Rivera with an original work of art by Texas sports artist Opie Otterstad.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre and Roger Clemens, Rivera's former teammate with the Yankees, will also be part of Sunday's pregame celebration.
As far as honoring Pettitte, Ryan said to stay tuned.
"We're feverishly brainstorming," he said. "There's a lot of good ideas floating around out there."
Porter plans to put focus on baserunning next spring
CLEVELAND -- Astros manager Bo Porter said Friday he wants to emphasize baserunning more during Spring Training next year and will even take over instruction of the team's baserunning. His decision comes after the Astros lost back-to-back extra-inning games, committing glaring baserunning errors late in each.
The Astros blew a great scoring chance in the 11th inning Wednesday, when Jose Altuve inexplicably went from first to third on a single, even though Brandon Barnes was standing on third. On Thursday, pinch-runner Jake Elmore was picked off second base for the first out of the 10th inning with Jonathan Villar at the plate trying to bunt him to third.
The recent baserunning gaffes have only magnified what has been a season-long problem.
"We will place more emphasis on some of the aspects that have happened throughout the course of the year, and it will be addressed from the standpoint of doing different drills that we did not do last spring and issues that will help us be a better baserunning team," Porter said. "Am I satisfied with our baserunning? No, absolutely not. As we move forward into next year, I'm going to take over the baserunning next year and it will be better."
First-base coach Dave Clark currently instructs baserunning, as well as the outfielders.
Martinez starts first game since July, targets winter ball
CLEVELAND -- J.D. Martinez was in the Astros' starting lineup at designated hitter Friday, marking his first start since July 26 in Toronto. He was on the disabled list from July 27 until Sept. 13 with a sprained left wrist.
Martinez had been limited to three pinch-hit at-bats since he was activated and was looking forward to finally getting consistent at-bats.
"I've only pinch-hit, and it's hard to get your timing down doing that," he said. "I'm excited to get in there for the game."
Martinez, who entered Friday hitting .254 with seven homers and 36 RBIs, said several weeks ago he felt it would be important for him to play winter ball this season to try to make up for lost time and put up some numbers to impress Astros management.
He said Friday he's 95 percent sure he'll play this winter in either the Dominican Republic or Venezuela.
"I just feel that it's good for me to go," he said. "I missed a lot of at-bats, and at the end of the day, I'm still young and still could see myself maturing. I don't feel like I've peaked out this year where I don't feel there's nothing to learn. I could still learn."
Grossman hits off tee, still not close to returning
CLEVELAND -- Left fielder Robbie Grossman, who hasn't played since injuring his oblique while swinging the bat Sept. 3 against the Twins, was able to hit a baseball off the tee Friday, but still doesn't appear close to returning to action.
Grossman hit safely in 29 of 35 games after being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 27, batting .322 with nine doubles, four homers, 18 RBIs, seven walks and four stolen bases. Grossman said his oblique feels "100 times" better, but it's still sore when he swings.
"It's frustrating, because I want to be out there to help these guys," he said. "Just to be out there to play, that's what I miss about it the most. I'm trying to get better."
Astros manager Bo Porter said he doesn't want to risk putting Grossman in a game and making the injury worse.
"You just don't want to put a guy in the game who's unable to swing pain-free, and he ends up having a setback and it lingers into the offseason," Porter said. "He'll continue to get treatment, and hopefully we'll get him to the point he can swing pain-free. We'd love to get him back in there."