KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter said he'll open the season with a five-man rotation despite the surplus of off-days early in the year. The Astros have four off-days in the first three weeks of the season, but Porter said he plans to stick with five starters throughout April.
"I'm a proponent of you take the off-days," he said. "You can't duplicate the intensity we'll have once we get to Minute Maid ballpark. That's not to say that Spring Training, the preparation part of it, isn't difficult, but you can't duplicate that energy. Early in the year, I've always leaned on the side of giving the guys the extra off day, and later in the year if you have to skip a guy, we'll skip a guy at that point."
Porter also said he won't decide on an Opening Day starting pitcher until later in camp. Right-handers Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell are the two candidates to take the mound on March 31 against the Rangers. Porter said several factors will play into the decision, including who the pitchers will match up against later in the month and where they will pitch (home or road).
Whichever pitcher starts on Opening Day would come back and start at home on April 7, but the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation would take his second start of the season on the road. Both Norris and Harrell were very strong at home last year. Norris led the NL with a 1.71 ERA at home last year, and Harrell ranked fifth with a 2.34 ERA at Minute Maid Park.
"Those are all factors that, from a managerial standpoint, you take those things into consideration," Porter said. "You look at your opponents, you look at your division and you want to have your best guys going against division foes. You want to see your rotation stack up for the long haul where you have your best guys going against your division foes."
The Astros' first 15 games in 2013 and 18 of their first 21 games are against AL West opponents.
Crane discusses importance of TV deal
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros owner Jim Crane, who arrived in town on Thursday to catch the Astros for a few days, provided an update on the team's negotiations to have regional sports network CSN Houston available in more markets in the Houston area.
The regional sports network, which is jointly owned by the Astros, the Houston Rockets and NBC, launched in October and isn't available yet on DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse. Crane said he's been involved in recent negotiations and still expects to get a deal done.
"I think something is going to happen," he said. "We're concerned about our fans. We want our fans to watch the game and we want to get this deal done. If there's a little pain in the short term, we've got to be willing to do that because we can't sacrifice the future. That's the whole theme on the ballteam."
Crane said the pressure point will be when the regular season starts March 31, but he stressed the deal must be a good one for the Astros considering it's for the long term.
"What fans need to understand is, we really need to cut a good deal here," he said. "This is a long-term deal, and it will really affect the ability to finance the team and the payroll. We have to have a deal that's market with the Rangers and Angels and we should be able to get that. We can't really cut a bad deal that's a long-term deal because it will affect us in the long term, and we don't want to do that. We want to have our payroll where the Rangers' is so we can compete with everybody. That's the key."
Bedard not overly concerned with injury
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Considering we're still three weeks away from the end of spring camp, left-hander Erik Bedard isn't too concerned about the right gluteal sprain that's limited him to two innings this spring. He had a similar injury with the Mariners in 2008.
"It's just something that's sore, and you just don't want to get it worse, so you just take your time and push back the outing and get better," said Bedard, a non-roster invitee to spring camp.
Bedard, 34, hopes to be able to get back on the mound in the next few days and see how the injury is progressing. He's battling with a handful of other arms for a spot in the starting rotation and still has time to leave a good impression on the Astros' brass.
"That's the thing, you don't want to take a chance right now and go throw again and make it way worse," he said.