Notes: Clemens to pitch to prospects
Pettitte throws off the mound for second time on Sunday
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
General manager Tim Purpura confirmed on Sunday that the Astros received permission by Major League Baseball to allow Clemens to pitch to the Minor Leaguers, one of whom is third base prospect Koby Clemens. The minicamp began earlier this week and will continue until the remainder of the Minor Leaguers report to Kissimmee on March 5.
Clemens, 43, is training for the World Baseball Classic and asked the Astros for the opportunity to pitch in their minicamp.
"He's not doing this by our request," Purpura said. He's doing this at his request, in preparation of the World Baseball Classic."
Clemens will pitch for Team USA, which begins training in Arizona later this week. He's scheduled to throw at the Astros' minicamp early Monday afternoon, but will likely start sometime before 8 a.m. ET on Thursday, before flying to Arizona.
Away games: Carlos Hernandez continues to make an impression on manager Phil Garner, but if he makes the club out of Spring Training, it will be largely on the recommendation of club employees.
Hernandez will pitch for the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic and depending on how his club fares, he could be away from camp until the third week in March.
But his progress will be tracked along the way. The Astros will have representatives following Hernandez, one of several candidates who will be considered for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.
"You just have to trust your scouts in that regard," Garner said.
More throwing: Andy Pettitte threw off the mound on Sunday for the second time this spring without incident -- unless you count being out of shape as a setback.
"It got tiring quick, that's for sure," Pettitte said with a chuckle. "My arm's not in mound shape. It'll take a while."
Pettitte is about a week behind his teammates, having taken off the entire offseason to rest instead of starting his normal throwing regimen after the first of the year. Pettitte likely will not be in the rotation the first time around when the Grapefruit League begins late this week. The left-hander will start at least once for a Minor League team, if not more.
Springer improving: Russ Springer played catch on Sunday but is still not throwing off the mound after pulling a rib cage muscle in his back.
Short day: Jeff Bagwell hit in the indoor batting cages on Sunday but did not throw. He will likely take every third day off from throwing this spring, at least for the next couple of weeks.
"He'll do that for a little bit longer -- two days on, one day off," Garner said. "He's swinging well."
Whiteman to report: Tommy Whiteman, once a top shortstop prospect in the organization, will report to Minor League camp in March and will likely make the Triple-A Round Rock club. He may also spend some time in big league camp, when players begin leaving for the World Baseball Classic.
Whiteman will play mainly short, but can also play third and he may also be viewed as a utility infielder.
Once a top prospect, along with Chris Burke, Whiteman's stock has dropped a bit over the years. But the Astros believe he still has the ability to play at the big league level, and now it's just a matter of what assistant general manager Ricky Bennett referred to as "lighting a fire" under the quiet, somewhat introverted infielder.
"We're trying to get him to where he's got more energy and got more life and is smiling and enjoying the game," Bennett said. "But that's just his personality.
"He's got the ability to play at the big league level, no question about it. It's just him being able to continue to work at it, to get back to where he was before when he was on the roster."