HOUSTON -- The Astros announced on Saturday they had scheduled two exhibition games against the Veracruz Red Devils of the Mexican Baseball League next spring. The games will be played March 29-30 at Minute Maid Park.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was born in Mexico, had been working on scheduling the games for quite some time and was joined at Saturday's news conference by Veracruz chairman Jose Antonio Mansur, vice president Jose Antonio Mansur Jr., executive chairman Jean Paul Mansur and administrative chair Chara Mansur.
"It's something, depending on how it goes next year -- and I expect it to be very successful -- we expect to be continued in the future," said Luhnow, who added that he wouldn't mind taking the Astros to Mexico for games in the future.
The Mexican Baseball League is considered by most scouts to have talent equal to Double-A or Triple-A teams.
"There's a lot of good players down there who make decent money," Luhnow said. "A lot of players have left Mexico and come to the States and have done well. The players with the highest upside are typically the younger players that haven't really established themselves in the Mexican League yet."
The Astros are still trying to schedule a couple of exhibition games for San Antonio's Alamodome next spring to face the Rangers, who have a contract to play exhibition games there for the second straight year.
Mariano meets with Astros employees, fans
HOUSTON -- Mariano Rivera might not get on the field this weekend at Minute Maid Park to face the Astros, but he showed the team a classy gesture Saturday.
At Rivera's request, he met with a handful of longtime Astros employees for about 30 minutes prior to Saturday's game. Rivera spoke with employees who had been with the team for more than 20 years and thanked them for all they had done.
Rivera has met with longtime employees at each city he's visited during his final season in the Major Leagues. He's retiring following Sunday's game.
"It was really special, really to the point it was almost surreal," said Astros director of box office operations Bill Cannon. "The man is truly larger than life. I say that unabashedly, yet a man of very genuine humility and compassion. He's at the top of his team, literally a legend.
"A lot of us [work] laboriously and don't have contact with the players. We don't bemoan that. People on the outside say, 'Don't you play dominoes with them on the off-day,' so for him to take time to meet with the rank and file was special."
Rivera met with about 25 people Saturday and took time to answer questions, pose for pictures and give each one an autographed ball.
Cannon, 68, has been with the Astros since 1977.
"By virtue of just having lived a while, you can see what's real and what's fake," he said. "With him, it's real as it gets."
Luhnow, Porter, staff meet to discuss players
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his top front-office officials met for about three hours Saturday with manager Bo Porter and the coaching staff to discuss every player on the 40-man roster.
"It was a very productive meeting and we got a lot done," Luhnow said. "We went over every player on the 40-man and some players took longer than others. It was very productive discussions. We have a good organizational point of view on every player."
Porter said he's always trying to gain as much information as he can on players from others who have seen them on a daily basis.
"We went over the 40-man roster moving forward and what this player or that player can do to put themselves in a better position," Porter said. "As I start to talk to these guys as well about their offseason plans, I just wanted to get input from all the coaches."
Astros set to discuss future of Porter's coaching staff
HOUSTON -- Don't be surprised if there are at least a couple of changes to the Astros' field staff for next season.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow lauded the staff Saturday for its efforts in the first year of manager Bo Porter's regime and said any possible changes to the Major League staff or Minor League staffs would begin getting discussed Sunday.
"I think they did a good job, given all the challenges we had in front of us this year," Luhnow said. "There was a lot of effort and a lot of hard work put into it. The results weren't what they wanted, but each man contributed what they could."
Porter said it wouldn't be fair to discuss any staff changes until the end of the regular season.
"Jeff and I will sit down as soon as the season is over," he said. "Jeff told the rest of the staff in the meeting [Saturday], he said by the middle of next week we'll touch base with everyone and let them know exactly what we're thinking."