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02/24/10 6:18 PM EST

Mills makes message heard at camp

Players take to new skipper following initial spring speech

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Each year since he's owned the team, Astros owner Drayton McLane makes sure to be at camp so he can address the players prior to their first full-squad workout in an effort to help get them motivated for the upcoming season.

But it was McLane who said he left Wednesday's 30-minute team meeting at Osceola County Stadium fired up about the upcoming season, thanks to a speech by new manager Brad Mills.

"In my 18 years here, that was by far the best comments and talk by a manager that Brad Mills gave to the players and his expectations of them," McLane said.

When asked what impressed him about the speech, McLane didn't hesitate.

"Forcefulness, his upbeat attitude, and that he's a take-charge kind of guy," McLane said. "He really said he's going to provide the leadership that's necessary."

Mills, hired last year to replace Cecil Cooper as manager, has been well-received by the players and the coaching staff during the first week of Spring Training. He's been in the middle of the players' workouts, has been vocal on the field and has spent some time in the clubhouse.

"Basically, I told them this coaching staff was going to do the best we could to create an environment where they want to do the right thing, and [that we would] give them the freedom of being the players they're capable [of]," Mills said. "Of course, I said a few more things than that."

Mills wouldn't share any of the intimate details of his speech, but the players were pleased.

"It was good," Astros slugger Lance Berkman said. "It was the first day and everybody was getting introduced. That was the main thing, getting introduced to the coaching staff. It was a good meeting."

McLane said he told the players they didn't reach their potential last year, but added he believed they were good enough to compete in the National League Central in 2010 with the additions that were made. Houston signed Pedro Feliz to play third base, added pitchers Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon, and traded for Matt Lindstrom.

"A number of improvements have been made in the team, and it's a fresh start," McLane said. "Brad Mills is our manager and we have several new coaches, and they're going to make a huge difference."

In addition to Mills, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, first-base coach Bobby Meacham and bench coach Al Pedrique are new to the staff.

"I'm certainly more interested to see how the atmosphere is going to be," Berkman said. "It's always good to see everybody you haven't seen for a while in the winter and meet the new guys. This is an exciting time of year."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.