HOUSTON -- For only the third time in their 50-year history, the Astros will have the first overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft next season. Houston earned that distinction when Minnesota won its 60th game on Thursday.The last time the Astros had the No. 1 pick was in 1992, when they selected Phil Nevin, whose career took off after he left Houston. They also had the top pick in '76 and chose left-handed pitcher Floyd Bannister. "You better get it right picking No. 1," Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. "Obviously, it's an opportunity. I hope it's the only opportunity I ever have to pick one. The idea is to pick in the late 20s and even better, pick 30. "These are the types of players you need to get you back to that point. As far as our approach, we walk into every year taking about candidates for the first pick, and I suspect we'll have a smaller number going into the year. We're still going to be open-minded and do our do diligence and select the best player." Unlike in recent years when phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were the clear-cut first overall picks, Heck said there is a pack of players who have separated themselves. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, Florida catcher Mike Zunino and high school pitcher Lucas Giolito of California and outfielder Byron Buxton of Georgia are among the players who could go No. 1. "That group will grow as we walk through the fall and enter the spring," Heck said. "It's just a matter of getting a group and expanding on it as you get towards the end and then shrinking it down." With the No. 1 pick comes a healthy financial commitment. The Astros this year paid a $2.525 million signing bonus when they took University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer with the 11th pick, and they could have to shell out about three times as much. This year's No. 1 pick, pitcher Gerrit Cole, got an $8 million bonus from the Pirates. "The precedent says you're going to pay a lot of money for that first pick," Heck said. "First and foremost, we better put the talent in the right order and deal with the money factors at a later time."
Harrell steps in as Astros shut down Norris
HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell will start Sunday's game against the Rockies, the team announced Thursday. Harrell will take the spot of Bud Norris, who had to leave Tuesday's start against the Reds after just 2 2/3 innings with shoulder discomfort.
Norris was examined at Minute Maid Park on Thursday night by team medical director David Lintner and diagnosed with right biceps tendinitis, which is not considered serious., but his season is done. Norris went 6-11 with a 3.77 ERA and has posted career highs in starts (31) and innings pitched (186) in his second full season in the Major Leagues.Harrell, acquired off waivers from the White Sox earlier this year, started one game for the Astros when Brett Myers had to go home to Florida for the birth of his fourth child. Harrell tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings on Sept. 2 against the Brewers, but he didn't get a decision. Harrell made three appearances for the White Sox this year before the Astros claimed him on July 8. He made nine starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City and was 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA. Houston will finish the season against the Cardinals by starting Wandy Rodriguez (Monday), Henry Sosa (Tuesday) and Myers (Wednesday).
Astros no longer providing energy drinks
HOUSTON -- The Astros are among a handful of teams that recently decided to stop providing energy drinks, such as Red Bull, in clubhouse refrigerators, both at Minute Maid Park and when the team is on the road.For the Astros, it was a case of trying to limit the side effects the high amount of caffeine in the drinks can have on players, such as dehydration. "It was just feedback we have gotten from our trainers and [strength and conditioning coach] Gene Coleman with regard to dehydration issues," general manager Ed Wade said. "They felt it was a contributing factor. "Obviously, we can't stop players from bringing the product into the clubhouse, but we don't supply it." One of the events that led to the Astros' decision came in 2009, when reliever Wesley Wright had to be taken to the hospital in Chicago and be treated for dehydration. USA Today reported Wright drank several cans of Red Bull and soft drinks before pitching that afternoon. Wright declined to comment on Thursday.