HOUSTON -- The Astros announced Friday they have extended their player development contract with the Class A JetHawks of the California League. The two-year extension continues the affiliation between the Astros and JetHawks through the 2014 season.
"The fans in Lancaster who cheer the JetHawks on at the Hangar are among the best in Minor League baseball," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We hope to continue to field winning teams there and win championships."
Lancaster currently holds a 1-0 lead in the California League Championship Series against Modesto heading into Friday's second game of the best-of-five series.
"Coming on the heels of a memorable season, we are excited to continue our partnership with Houston," JetHawks majority owner Peter Carfagna said. "The Astros have taken great steps forward by placing a lot of talent and focus in its Minor League system, and fans in the Antelope Valley will continue to have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the organization's great drafts and trades."
Lancaster finished the regular season with a 74-66 (.529) record, which was a dramatic improvement over its 2011 season (55-85). The partnership between the Astros and Lancaster began in 2009.
DeFrancesco interviews with Astros for manager spot
HOUSTON -- Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco got a chance to make his pitch to keep the job on a full-time basis Friday when he sat down for three hours with owner Jim Crane, team president George Postolos and general manager Jeff Luhnow for his interview.
"I thought it went well," DeFrancesco said. "I was very comfortable with them. I left there with some confidence and was happy to even have the opportunity."
DeFrancesco took over for the dismissed Brad Mills on Aug. 19 and had a 7-17 record going into Friday's game, though the Astros were 6-6 in September. He has a 1,235-1,088 record in 18 years as a Minor League manager.
"I believe in my ability and all the training I had in the Minor Leagues," DeFrancesco said.
The known candidates the Astros have interviewed are Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter, and Larry Bowa was in Houston to meet with the Astros on Friday, though it's not know if he's a candidate.
DeFrancesco believes he brings some unique qualities.
"The relaxed nature I have in the dugout, my ability to talk to the players in team meetings and the coaches," he said. "Jeff and Jim want a leader, and I'm hoping I can be the guy that can lead these guys. I'm excited to have the chance to even talk about it."
Kent returns to Houston to toss out first pitch
HOUSTON -- Jeff Kent, whose walk-off homer in Game 5 of the 2004 National League Championship Series against the Cardinals is one of the most memorable homers in Astros history, returned to Minute Maid Park on Friday to throw out the first pitch, though he gave the duties to his 9-year-old son, Kaeden.
The Astros have had a former player throw out the first pitch prior to every Friday home game this year as part of the team's 50th anniversary. Kent played two years with Houston (2003-04) and lives with his family in Austin.
"This is neat," Kent said. "It's always neat to get on the field, but always nice to go home and know I don't have to put the uniform on anymore."
These days, Kent remains busy coaching a Little League baseball team, as well as continuing to race dirt bikes. He had an accident last month in which he broke four ribs and punctured a lung and wound up spending a week in the hospital.
Kent also recently spent seven weeks in the Philippines as a contestant on the reality TV show "Survivor," which debuts a new season next week. Kent isn't allowed to say if he won the competition, but he was glad for the opportunity.
"I'm a fan of TV shows and I'm a dad and a competitor, and I love to do things outside the game," he said. "An opportunity came for me to challenge myself and compete socially, which was a challenge in itself. I watch all the reality shows and they can be kind of cheesy, but 'Survivor' was done with some class."
Barnes settling into role in Astros' lineup
HOUSTON -- It's taken a few adjustments with his approach, but rookie outfielder Brandon Barnes believes he's finally settled in at the plate.
Barnes, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Aug. 7, had two consecutive two-hit games entering Friday, which earned him a start in the No. 2 hole in the batting order. He was 2-for-3 in a start on Wednesday and came off the bench and went 2-for-2 on Thursday.
"I'm simplifying things," he said. "I think I was trying to do too much early on and trying to prove to everybody that I can play here. Now that I've been here for a little while, it's just starting to settle down and now I can relax and play the game."
Barnes had 10 hits in 58 at-bats prior to Wednesday with 15 strikeouts. He hadn't been as aggressive as he had been in the Minor Leagues.
"I'm aggressive, and when I'm locked in like that I'll be able to lay off balls and recognize pitches," he said. "Just being aggressive is the biggest thing I've made an adjustment with."
Astros honor those lost in consulate attacks
HOUSTON -- The flags beyond center field at Minute Maid Park were flown at half-staff on Friday to honor the Americans who were killed in Tuesday's U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The bodies of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods returned to American soil on Friday after they were killed in a terrorist attack on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack," President Barack Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden. "Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people."