HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter spoke glowingly Monday about outfielder Rick Ankiel, who signed with the team last week and will come to camp as a non-roster invitee. Ankiel played during the previous two seasons with Washington, where Porter was third-base coach.
Ankiel, who has hit 69 homers in 1,793 career Major League at-bats with St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta and Washington, will be among those competing for a spot in a wide-open outfield race. The fact he has a plus arm, can play all three outfield spots and bats left-handed should help his cause.
"When you look at our outfield configuration, it was one of those things we knew we had to add another bat," Porter said. "We wanted to find a guy out there who was left-handed, given that J.D. Martinez and [Justin] Maxwell are both right-handed, and Ankiel was a good fit all the way around.
"He's a veteran guy with great leadership ability, and I think he's going to add to the leadership in our clubhouse and add to the leadership on the field, as well. You look at our roster, you look at the opportunity that presents itself, there's a definite opportunity for Rick to come in here and play well and be part of our 25-man roster."
Ankiel broke into the Majors with the Cardinals and went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) in 2000 for St. Louis, but his sudden inability to throw strikes forced him to try his hand as a hitter. Since returning to the big leagues in 2004 as an outfielder, Ankiel has hit .246 with 67 homers and 224 RBIs in 558 games.
Porter had heart-to-heart talk with prospect Singleton
HOUSTON -- Not long after he failed a drug test that forced Major League Baseball to suspend him for the first 50 games of the 2013 season, Astros top prospect Jonathan Singleton had a heart-to-heart talk with manager Bo Porter about responsibility and the road ahead.
Singleton, ranked by MLB.com as the top prospect in the Astros organization, issued a statement following his Jan. 9 suspension apologizing to the team while admitting he tested positive for marijuana. It was his second failed test.
"I just explained to him, I said, 'Listen, your life is at a crossroads. No one can sit here and say they've never made mistakes, but now your next move will go a long way in determining how you're going to rectify this mistake,'" Porter said.
Porter said Singleton was apologetic in person, as well. He will have to sit out the first 50 games of the season, but can participate in Spring Training.
"I wanted him to know the whole organization is behind him rectifying this mistake and moving on in his baseball career," Porter said. "I said, 'Jonathan, this is not about Jonathan Singleton, the ballplayer. This is about Jonathan Singleton, the man.' Because if we get the man right, we're going to get the baseball player. But if we don't get the man right, we're never going to get the baseball player. I explained to him, 'Now the ball is in your court, and it's time for you to do your part.'"
Wright: Porter 'lives and dies and breathes baseball'
HOUSTON -- Monday's CAREavan stop in Houston marked the first time that Astros pitcher Wesley Wright, the longest current tenured member of the club, had a chance to talk extensively with first-year manager Bo Porter, who will be the third full-time manager Wright has played for while with the Astros (Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills).
"I definitely think Bo is a passionate guy," Wright said. "He lives and dies and breathes baseball. The fact he's able to pass on his energy and passion to his players is going to be very important during the course of a long season, and when times are a little tough, to have someone to keep you motivated and focused on the task at hand."
Porter said how he approaches his job will set a tone with the players.
"One of the main jobs as a manager is to show up every day, and you want to basically have a sense of pride, because that energy is contagious," he said. "It's contagious throughout the clubhouse, it's contagious after we take the field. Not just myself, but the staff included, we all talked about it. We will set the tone for the ballclub every day, and they will start to display that."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.