KISSIMMEE, Fla. - A familiar face was in camp Friday as part of the Major League Baseball Players' Association contingent that came to Osceola County Stadium for its meeting with the Astros.
Jose Cruz Jr., the son of Astros legend Jose Cruz and 12-year Major League veteran, earlier this month joined the MLBPA as a service agent. He was recruited to the organization by director of player relations Tony Clark, who was looking for a bilingual presence.
"This is my second meeting so far," said Cruz, who ended his career with the Astros in 2008. "It turns out I know a lot of guys in here. It's fun. Anything you can do to help out and make an impact on the game behind the scenes is great. It was enticing, so I took it."
Cruz, who had done some TV work for ESPN since he retired, enjoys helping former players.
"It's something I'm interested in, and something I hope to do for a long time," he said.
A Houston native who played at Bellaire High School and Rice University, Cruz grew up around the Astros and the Astrodome. He said he loves the team's new color scheme.
"The new look is outstanding," he said. "The moment they did the unveiling, it was awesome. It brings back a lot of memories for me as a kid growing up."
Veras excited to represent DR in Classic
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros closer Jose Veras was beaming with pride Friday morning at the thought of being able to represent his native Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic. Veras was on the Dominican roster that was released Thursday.
"You can't explain the feeling any player can have to represent their flag," Veras said. "I think it's going to be wonderful."
Veras said he made the decision to play earlier this week after getting approval from general manager Jeff Luhnow. It's special to Veras, considering he wasn't allowed to play in the 2009 Classic.
"I was supposed to play in the last one, but the Yankees didn't let me for a couple of circumstances," Veras said.
Veras, 32, went 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA last season in 72 games and 67 innings for Milwaukee before signing a one-year deal with Houston. He knows this will likely be his final opportunity to play in the tournament.
"It's probably going to be my last chance," Veras said. "My next one I'll be 36, 37, and I don't know if they'll give me an opportunity, so this is my chance to do it."
Astros right-hander Rhiner Cruz (Spain), left-hander Xavier Cedeno (Puerto Rico) and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin (Chinese Taipei) also appeared on final rosters, as expected. Lin left camp Wednesday to train with his team. Minor League pitcher Murilo Gouvea is on Brazil's final roster.
Biogenesis a topic of day at players' meeting
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - One of the topics that was addressed in the annual Astros players' meeting with executives from the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday was the allegations surrounding Biogenesis, the Miami-based clinic that is under investigation for reportedly providing performance-enhancing drugs to players.
Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez is among several that have been reported by ESPN to have been on documents obtained from the clinic that list them as receiving PEDs. The report says the documents are not proof the players received or used PEDs
MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said Biogenesis was "an issue of the day."
"There's a process that's going to have to be followed," Weiner said. "We've been chatting with the players whose names have surfaced. The Commissioner's Office has the right to interview them, and that will happen soon, but in due time. If there's evidence of wrongdoing, we'll get to the bottom of it and we'll get to the bottom of it jointly. That's the way the program works."
Tony Clark, the MLBPA's director of player relations, says players were reminded that there is a strong drug-testing program in place, and those that violate its terms will be caught.
"Unfortunately, we continue to have that discussion, and unfortunately guys are finding themselves in tough spots. We hope, as we educate guys going forward, they'll be in position to make better decisions," he said.
With Jed Lowrie gone to Oakland, catcher Jason Castro and outfielder Justin Maxwell are the team's player reps to the union.
"I always like the opportunity to listen to [Weiner] and talk to him whenever I can," Castro said. "He's very intelligent, very knowledgeable and has been around the game a long time. You hear about stuff in the media, but to hear it behind the scenes and what the inner-workings are, it's a different perspective. The meeting went great, and it was nice to see that everyone had a lot of questions."
Astros hope to bring Bagwell back to organization
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- While Roger Clemens has taken a more prominent role in the organization as a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow and Craig Biggio remains active with the team, the club is hoping to one day get Jeff Bagwell back in the fold.
Bagwell had served as a special assistant for years following his retirement in 2006, and even did occasional television analyst work on Astros broadcasts, but he's not actively involved with the team. Biggio and Enos Cabell are special assistants, and will be at spring camp at some point.
"We want Jeff to be involved as soon as he's ready to play a more significant role like Biggio, Roger and others are playing, like Enos," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We're ready to receive him, and that's what we're hoping for."
Bagwell played 15 seasons for the Astros before a degenerative shoulder condition ended his career in 2005, and he officially retired the following year. He served as Astros interim hitting coach for the final part of the 2010 season. Bagwell received 59.6 percent of the vote in his third year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year.
• Right-hander Hector Ambriz, who sprained his left ankle a week ago, threw on the mound Friday for the first time since the injury without any incident. The next step for Ambriz will be able to face live hitters for the first time.
• Catcher Max Stassi, who's been dealing with a strained oblique the entire camp, continues to improve. He did some blocking drills Friday and swung a fungo bat. "We're anxious to get him back healthy and get him back on the field," manager Bo Porter said.