One of the more fun and interesting aspects of FanFest was the opportunity to sit down with Brad Mills to discuss the upcoming season. Alongside our fellow Astros bloggers, Mills sat down to answer a few questions to help enlighten us on a number of topics. Brad came off as a true optimist among what will surely be a long season. Even during his post-game interviews, he had always seemed to see the bright side of almost every negative situation. He was no different during our interview with him this past Saturday, even made me feel more excited about the upcoming season than I already was. We discussed everything from certain players, player usage and his viewpoint on minor league topics, lets check it out.
David from the Crawfishboxes.com asked Brad how he felt about the fans showing up for FanFest and getting a chance to interact with them. Mills noted the proximity to the regular season as a reason for a bit more excitement as compared to other seasons. Brad seems very much like a people person and I could see how he’d like to interact with the fans in attendance.
I don’t have a problem with meeting the fans and getting out and chatting with them and I enjoy that. That’s kind of where we’ve been, kind of running all over the area.
Jose from myhoustonlife.com asked the skipper what he is most looking forward to this season. Brad seemed to really be excited about the talent at his disposal and the competitions that could take place during spring training.
This year there are a lot of open spots because we’d had some young guys to see how they’re going to come through.
Deputy Jason from Astroscounty.com brought up a topic that I had questions about from the moment of his signing, how would Jack Cust be used and is 1st base a possibility? Millsy confirmed Cust would be in the equation at 1st base with Brett Wallace taking grounders at 3rd base. It certainly appears Cust will play a part in the Astros plans and will be one of Mills’ most useful weapons but hopefully won’t be overused like a certain outfielder from last season. Cust can be valuable in moderation but once Mills exceeds his usage rate then it could be a similar problem that got Mills criticized so much last year.
Jayne from whattheheckbobby.com is a specialist on the minor league system and she didn’t disappoint with a great question about player usage during the winter league season for Mills’ young players. Mills confirmed that it depended on how close the player was to the majors which makes sense considering a guy like Aneury Rodriguez will make a much bigger impact next season. He also noted Altuve as a player to watch and how he was surprised at how much he played.
The one guy that we wanted him to watch himself and that was Altuve, you know he winds up I mean close to 900 at bats for the season.
David from the Crawfishboxes.com wanted to know how Brad will look at all the new faces in camp and help everyone mesh. Brad gives credit to the front office for filling out every stat necessary that will help with the evaluation process. Video and player capsules will also help the process of getting to know all the young guys and Brad sounded very much like he will lean on Jeff Luhnow and his staff for getting valuable data to him.
I had a chance to ask Brad about Fernando Martinez and what his acquisition meant for the team and for FMart’s career. After a playful exchange with Bud Norris, who was in the room, concerning Martinez’ second career long ball off Bud, Brad made known Martinez would get a shot with the Astros. He emphasized the chance to tap into the kid’s potential and hopefully see what made Fernando a once highly touted prospect. There will be a ton of OF competition in camp with 14 players looking for a spot on the 25 man roster and Martinez will certainly be in that mix.
You never know if a change of scenery with a guy, all of a sudden, he is able to kick and he really does something. So we’re kind of hoping that this change of scenery for him coming over he’s going to be able to show us something.
Terri from Talesfromthejuicebox.com was next and asked a very intriguing question, how would Brad define success in 2012 considering the full rebuild the Astros are in? Mills seemed to take most of the responsibility for the success or failure that the team will have this season. He thinks the talent is there and after a rough 2011, the players and coaches are ready to roll. A lot of accountability in his answer, wouldn’t expect anything less from Brad as he sticks up for his players more than any manager I can remember.
Jayne would close the interview with a question we’ve all wondered about for quite sometime, would Brad let Bogusevic hit versus lefties after a strong winter league campaign? From all indications, Mills certainly appears ready to give Brian a shot to hit against LHP but how long the leash will appear to be the real question. That said, he made very clear that matchups, playing time for all his outfielders and just feel for a certain game will also play key roles in how much Bogey will get to play.
I think that when a guy deserves and he wins a shot, he deserves a chance to hit against both guys, right and left.
Brad Mills has seen his share of ups and downs within his first two seasons as the Astros’ manager but to his credit he seems as optimistic as ever. Brad seems to truly believe that this team can compete on a nightly basis and sure enough convinced me in the process. This interview was a treat because it helped shed light on what he expects from his guys and from himself. My hope is that this season will let us see some of Brad’s blueprint to come to life for so many of the younger guys and see his growth as true general on the field.