Porter excited for Astros to kick off 2013
First-year skipper set for Opening Night against the Rangers
HOUSTON -- Bo Porter will make his managerial debut on Sunday night, when his new-look Astros open the season at home against the Texas Rangers.
Porter, 40, downplayed the significance of it being his first game as a manager in the Major Leagues.
"The Opening Day isn't about me," Porter said. "It's not about me managing my first game. I think it's more special for the city of Houston. They'll have an opportunity to embrace all the great changes being made in this organization. This city deserves a winner."
The fans will be watching the rookie manager, particularly Sunday night on national TV (ESPN).
"I'm humbled to be manager of the Houston Astros," Porter said. "I lived in this city for 16 years, so it is special for me. I don't try to make anything about me. I'm looking forward to the fans getting to see the 2013 Houston Astros. The last few years have not been Houston-like.
"[Opening Day is] no more special than Game 162. It's a game on the schedule. I'm not going to put special emphasis on this game or that game. That's not fair to the players. It's a game on the schedule."
Porter spent the last two years as the third-base coach for the Washington Nationals.
The Astros sport a new uniform, a new game plan designed around building for the future, and new features at Minute Maid Park under a relatively new ownership.
"I'm eager to get back to Houston," Porter said. "The clubhouse looks a lot different. It feels like home. It's a lot brighter. More player friendly. The players like the atmosphere we've created. It's great."
The Astros' management likes Porter as well.
"Bo's got a lot of energy," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's expecting a lot and the players are responding to that. He's a rookie manager who acts like a veteran. He's a natural born leader."
Texans' Watt joins Astros in batting practice
HOUSTON -- NFL defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans stepped into the cage for a little batting practice with the Astros before Friday night's exhibition game.
Watt, in only his second year from Wisconsin, turned into one of the best defensive players in the NFL last fall.
The Astros noticed Watt wearing their gear after one of the Texans' playoff games and invited him to take a few swings with the team.
"I played [baseball] until my sophomore year in high school," Watt said. "I played all over."
The Astros gave Watt a custom-made dark blue jersey with No. 99, his number with the Texans, on the back. Watt also wore a Houston Colt .45s cap, orange sneakers and gray baggy shorts.
Watt, batting right-handed, struggled with his first few pitches from bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte, who was throwing batting practice. Watt swung and missed at six of the first seven pitches he saw, popping up the other one to the top of the cage.
"That was embarrassing," he said.
Gradually, Watt began to make contact and drove one pitch deep into the seats beyond the left-field-fence that brought some "oohs" from players and fans.
But Watt didn't look ready to quit his day job.
Martinez sidelined with strained oblique
HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez was examined on Friday night for a strained oblique, but no decision was reached. He will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
Martinez was scratched from Thursday's starting lineup and did not play in Friday's home exhibition game against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park. He has also been bothered by back tightness.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.