HOUSTON -- When the Astros arrived home from Spring Training last week, they found brand new iPads at their lockers, courtesy of owner Jim Crane. The team had downloaded opposing pitcher and hitter videos to give the players another tool to stay sharp.
Crane said Tuesday the iPads were the brainchild of general manager Jeff Luhnow.
"Jeff had a recommendation that he wanted to download a lot of the stuff they look at -- the video they look at of their at-bats and pitching so they can study the pitching for the next night -- and wanted to give them an iPad when they got back, so we loaded them all up and had them in their lockers when they got back from Spring Training," Crane said. "I think it will be great when they're on the road, they can always work."
Most of the players already have iPads, but Crane wanted to reward them for a long Spring Training.
"It's just a little token of [appreciation for] all the hard work they went through in Spring Training," he said.
Humber set to face fellow Rice alum Berkman
HOUSTON -- Philip Humber, who will take the ball for the Astros in Wednesday's series finale against Texas, has never pitched against fellow Rice product Lance Berkman in a Major League game. But the right-hander has faced Berkman before, and it didn't go so well.
Berkman launched a 450-foot home run off Humber during the pitcher's freshman year in the Rice University alumni game in 2001 at Reckling Park in Houston. Humber was just beginning a career that culminated with a College World Series championship, and Berkman was an established player with the Astros.
Humber figures to get another crack at Berkman, the Rangers' designed hitter, on Wednesday.
"That's the only time I've faced him and he's up 1-0," Humber joked. "Hopefully, I can even the score a little bit. From what I saw Sunday night, he's still got it. He's still got that swing, and obviously is going to be a tough out and a big part of their lineup this year. I think we'll have a game plan, at least, and go out and try to get him out."
Humber has come to know Berkman a little bit through the years and respects him as a player.
"The year we won the [College] World Series, in the offseason he would come and do a bible study with the guys, and I learned a lot from him," Humber said. "We maybe went to lunch together once or twice, but I never spent a whole lot of time with him. I have a whole lot of respect for him as a player and a person, and he is a great representative of baseball and Rice."
Castro not catching, but in lineup as DH
HOUSTON -- Astros catcher Jason Castro was given the day off behind the plate Tuesday, but not from the lineup. Castro was in the lineup against the Rangers as the designated hitter, batting seventh ahead of catcher Carlos Corporan, who has worked well with starter Lucas Harrell.
Castro couldn't remember the last time he was a DH, but he planned to lean on veterans like Carlos Pena to get advice.
"There's a mindset and an approach," Castro said. "You can't just have an at-bat and just check out with four pinch-hits almost. It's something that's more of a mental game than it is physical. It's definitely something that's a work in progress. I don't know how much I'll DH this year, but I'm going to try to take advantage of it when I get the opportunity."
If something happens to Corporan and Castro had to move behind the plate, the Astros would lose the designated hitter and would have to put the pitcher back in the lineup. Manager Bo Porter said that's not a concern.
"It would be very fluky for something to happen to both of them," he said. "They're hitting back to back, and if you get to that point and have to do something, you can do something."
Astros savor Opening Night victory over Rangers
HOUSTON -- The Astros were off Monday, which gave them another day to bask in the glow of Sunday's 8-2 season-opening win over the Rangers that was their first in the American League and the 4,000th in franchise history.
Rick Ankiel, who came off the bench to hit a three-run home run that broke the game open, said his phone didn't stop ringing or vibrating with text messages.
"Everybody in the baseball world was watching," he said. "Pretty much my whole contact list was [messaging me]. It was fun and I enjoyed it, and I was looking forward to tonight."
Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who threw 5 1/3 innings to earn his first win of the season, had a similar reception from his family and friends.
"I think I had 70, 80 text messages from friends and family and Facebook blew up," Norris said. "It was really, really nice. The people who helped me along my career to get here, my family and my friends, and the support has been outstanding from my teammates and everybody in the clubhouse. It's been a long couple of years, but that one feels special to me."
• Crane said despite making some progress during a conference call on Monday, the team wasn't able to strike a deal to have its new regional sports network, CSN Houston, carried on more television providers in Houston. Currently, the channel, which airs Astros games, is only available to about 40 percent of the Houston TV market.
"Right now, we're kind of at a standstill," Crane said Tuesday. "Nothing got done today. We're in constant talks with them, so hopefully something will break."
• Astros pitcher Alex White, who was put on the 60-day disabled list with a sprained elbow, said Tuesday night the team is waiting for his elbow MRI to be examined by Dr. James Andrews. White could visit him in Alabama later this week. Luhnow said the team hoped to have more information by the end of the day Wednesday.