HOUSTON -- Brandon Barnes, who's been in the Astros organization longer than any other current player, was chosen by manager Bo Porter to address the team on Saturday night. Porter wanted Barnes to tell his teammates how hard he had to work to make Sunday's Opening Night lineup.
Barnes, who started in right field for the Astros against the Rangers, was drafted in 2005 but was never considered a big prospect and twice nearly quit the game. But he persevered and made his debut last year and won a spot on the 25-man roster this year with a strong spring.
"I just saw it fitting, with him not only making the 25-man roster, but also being in the Opening Day starting lineup," Porter said. "That's a huge accomplishment for a guy who was once told he wouldn't make it out of A-ball. That speaks to our mantra of defying the odds."
Barnes got in front of his teammates and shared his passion, his story of working through the Minor Leagues and how he refused to give up when others told him he should.
"He completely identified with the theory of 'Ignoring the noise,'" Porter said, citing one of his motivational phrases. "He said if he would have listened to all the things that were said to him, he wouldn't be standing in front of the group as the Opening Day starting right fielder for the Houston Astros."
Barnes, 26, was moved by the gesture.
"It was truly an honor to be able to stand in front of my teammates in there, like Rick [Ankiel] and Carlos [Pena] and the coaching staff we have," he said. "My whole career, I've never given up and people have never thought I would get to the big leagues to get past A-ball, and my hard work has proved that hard work does pay off."
Porter 'all in' as Astros begin new era
HOUSTON -- Throughout the course of the spring, Astros manager Bo Porter has done several things to change the culture in the clubhouse, including posting motivational signs around the ballpark, putting mirrors in players' lockers as a symbolic gesture and not allowing names on the backs of jerseys until the regular season.
Porter was at it again on Saturday following the club's exhibition-season finale against the Cubs. He set up a table in the middle of the clubhouse and gave each player, owner Jim Crane, team president/CEO George Postolos and general manager Jeff Luhnow 25 poker chips and started to bid. Porter went first and put in his all his chips and grabbed an orange T-shirt that read: I'm all in."
Porter said he got the motivational idea from Hayden Fry, his former football coach at the University of Iowa who was known for his motivational skills and psychological approach.
"Man to man, everybody had to come up one at a time and put their chips all in," Porter said. "When you go all in, that means you're willing to lose it all, but you're also willing to win it all. At no point can you say, 'No, no, no, I didn't want to be all in, I want to pull myself back.' It something ... we're going to win together or die together, but we're all in."
Crane, who purchased the team for $680 million in late 2011, appreciated the gesture, even though he did get a chuckle out of having to invest poker chips.
"I said I had already put them, but I'll do it again," Crane joked.
Astros formulating plan for White's recovery
HOUSTON -- The Astros are awaiting more test results on the right elbow of right-hander Alex White, who sprained his elbow in Friday's exhibition game against the Cubs and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He had additional tests on Sunday.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that even though the team doesn't know the full extent of the injury, he knew there would be a long recovery.
"Regardless of the course of action, he was going to need to be not throwing for at least a period of a couple of weeks," Luhnow said. "And once you start to do the math of not throwing and getting back in shape an all of that, it gets you close enough to 60 days we felt that was the right thing to do and not rush him back."
The Astros had a relatively healthy spring until the final days before the start of the regular season, when White went down and outfielder Fernando Martinez went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. The team feels confident with being able to have veteran right-hander Edgar Gonzalez fill White's long-relief role.
"We sought to go out and increase our depth, as far as pitching goes, and immediately we had an injury. But at the same time, Edgar Gonzalez has done everything this spring and he could have made the ballclub anyway," manager Bo Porter said. "It was good to have a person like that sitting in the wings, ready to go, that has pitched in the big leagues and we know the role which we're going to put him in, which is a long reliever. He's more than capable of filling that role."
Porter is well supported in managerial debut
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter couldn't even begin to count the number of friends and family members he had at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night for his first game as a manager. The list did include his wife and son, mother and father, grandmother and some aunts and uncles from different parts of the country.
"No one can come to my house because it's full," he joked. "You'd have to find a nearby hotel."
Several of Porter's former football and baseball teammates at the University of Iowa were also in attendance, which came as a surprise to Porter.
"Some of them came in yesterday," he said. "You always feel honored when you have special people that are part of your life and have been part of your life for a long time, and to have them come out and support you, it makes you feel good."
Porter said he put his wife, Stacey, in charge of making sure everyone had tickets and was where they needed to be, but not before throwing her a surprise birthday party Saturday night. Her birthday is next Friday.
"The number of people we have here, I pretty much could not even tell you because I let my wife handle it," Porter said. "I just put it on her and said, 'I don't want to deal with it.' She'll make sure everyone comes to the game and has a good time."
One person close to Porter who couldn't make it was his former football coach at Iowa, Hayden Fry. Porter had hoped to have him at Minute Maid Park.
"He's still dealing with some health issues and the travel would have been a bit much for him," Porter said. "I talked to him this morning and he sends his well-wishes, and he's here in spirit."
Seven Astros make Opening Day debut
HOUSTON -- Seven Astros appeared on their first Opening Day roster on Sunday night: outfielders Brandon Barnes, Justin Maxwell and Chris Carter, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Carlos Corporan, left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno and right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock.
The chance to be introduced before the home crowd was a huge honor for Corporan, a Minor League lifer who had one career in at-bat in the Major Leagues before the Astros plucked him off waivers two years ago. He's the team's backup catcher to Jason Castro.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "I've been working 11 years for this opportunity, man. That's what all ballplayers dream about, and I'm really happy I have the opportunity the Astros gave me. Everything I have is earned. Everything. I've been working really hard, so it's something that I kind of feel complete in my life and I have to continue to stay for a long time. That's the hard part, to stay here for a long time in the big leagues."
Barnes was surprised to see his name in the starting lineup.
"My thought was I'm completely blessed," he said. "There are really no other words for it, but I'm very thankful."
Porter debuts vs. former coach in Wash
HOUSTON -- When the starting lineups were introduced prior to Sunday night's game, Rangers manager Ron Washington and Astros manager Bo Porter shared a handshake and an embrace. Washington was Oakland's third-base coach when Porter was playing for the A's in 2000, and they've remained friends.
"We've always kept a close relationship and he's a friend, first and foremost, and throughout the course of the year we will compete against each other, but at the end of the day our friendship will remain," Porter said.
In fact, Washington has been a source of guidance for Porter, who was hired last year by the Astros to be their manager after interviewing with a couple of clubs previously, including the Marlins.
"When Ron Washington was hired by the Texas Rangers, I was one of the first five to 10 people that gave him a call and congratulated him," Porter said. "When I was hired by the Houston Astros, Ron Washington was one of the first people that called and congratulated me."
Porter said Washington has been a sounding board for him on a number of different things.
"Even before I became a manager, the first couple of times I interviewed and it went all the way down to the wire with an opportunity get the job and I didn't get the job, he was one of the people that called me and said, 'Hey, hang in there. I interviewed 11 times before I was hired, your opportunity is going to come, and when it comes it will be the right opportunity for you,'" Porter said.
Street festival gears up fans for Opening Night
HOUSTON -- Fans wearing the Astros' new blue and orange colors sipped on cold drinks, played games and enjoyed live music along Crawford Street outside Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon as part of the team's 12th annual Opening Day Street Festival.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager Bo Porter, bench coach Eduardo Perez and pitchers Philip Humber and Lucas Harrell addressed the crowd about the 2013 season.
"I'm extremely excited about the spring," Porter said. "You have to credit the entire staff and the guys on the stage and the rest back in the locker room for working very hard. They put together a good program that has them prepared for Opening Night, and we're excited to share it with the fans of Houston."
Luhnow reminded the fans of the historical significance of Sunday's game, which opened the Astros' first season in the American League after 51 years in the Senior Circuit.
"You all are participating in something pretty special," he said. "Tonight is an historic event. The Houston Astros and Colt .45s were in the National League for  years. We managed to get to the World Series once but didn't win it. We left some unfinished business in the National League, but as Bo said, that's behind us. We're looking forward. We're entering the American League and we're going to win a championship in the American League. We're going to win more than one championship in the American League."
• Crane said he remains confident Astros games will soon be available to a majority of the Houston TV market. The Astros' regional network partnership with the NBA's Houston Rockets and NBC Sports is currently available in about 40 percent of Houston TV households and isn't on carriers such as DirecTV and Dish Network.
"I think something will get done," he said. "We want the fans to watch the games, we're concerned about it. What we told people is we've to get a good deal for the long-term value of the team, which is the revenue base we need to support the team to compete with the Rangers and Angels and those sorts of people. Getting a good TV deal is important, so we hope it goes off on time, but if it doesn't, I think you'll see something shortly after that."