MIAMI -- Jim Crane was at Marlins Park on Friday night for his first road game as the Astros owner. Crane owns the Floridian National Golf Club, about 110 miles north of Miami, and said he has some big business ties in the area.
Crane, who was accompanied on the trip by, among others, professional golfer Blaine McCallister and Astros senior vice president/events and guest services Marty Price, likes what he saw in the Marlins new ballpark.
"It's pretty cool looking," he said. "It takes a little while to get adjusted to it, but I think it's well-designed. It looks a little flashier on TV, but when you get in here it really kind of flows well and has a cool flavor and look."
Crane has toured several Spring Training sites in Florida and took a good look around Marlins Park on Friday to get some ideas to perhaps bring back to Houston.
"I think what we want to do this year everywhere we go we'll have someone on the staff look at who's advertising [in other ballparks] and who's spending money in the park," Crane said. "We've already seen a couple of new signs we'd like to make some calls on, see how the food and concessions work so we can make improvements at our place in Houston."
Crane said the team plans to submit a new uniform design to Major League Baseball by the end of the month. He maintained what's he's said for the last two months in that the Astros are probably going to have new uniforms when they move to the American League next year.
Martinez makes history at Marlins park
MIAMI -- The only thing that would have made J.D. Martinez's homecoming any better would have been an Astros win.
Martinez, a Miami native who was playing his first professional game in his hometown, put his name in the history books by hitting the first regular season home run in the history of Marlins Park, a game-tying shot in the eighth inning of the Astros' 5-4 loss to the Marlins.
"It's definitely awesome," Martinez said. "It was pretty cool. We talked about it and words can't describe it. I felt like it was my first home run when I hit it. That's because I got to do it in front of my family and friends and everybody."
Martinez, who has hit safely in all seven games the Astros have played this year, grew up in Pembroke Pines, Fla., as a huge fan of the Marlins and even attended a World Series game at the team's previous ballpark in 1997.
"I live about 20 minutes away, so when I was driving by I would see [Marlins Park being built]," he said. "It was cool. I saw it developing and everybody would say, 'You're going to have a chance to play there."
With dozens of family members and friends in the audience, Martinez will be the answer to a trivia question for years to come. For a kid from Miami, that's pretty cool.
"For sure, it was definitely awesome," he said. "It was a great moment, but it would have been a lot better had we got the win today. It [stinks] the way it ended."
Martinez wasn't able to get the ball fetched from the stands.
Lowrie pleased with speedy return
MIAMI -- Astros manager Brad Mills was finally able to write the name of shortstop Jed Lowrie into his lineup card Friday. Lowrie, who sprained his right thumb in a March 28 Spring Training game against the Marlins, was in the lineup for Friday's series opener against the Marlins, one day after being activated from the 15-day disabled list.
Lowrie, acquired in a December trade with the Red Sox, was plugged into the No. 2 hole in the batting order, where Mills liked what he saw from him during Spring Training. Other than wearing a protective brace to protect the thumb while running the bases, Lowrie is over the injury.
"I'm actually really happy it went really quick considering how swollen and how bad my thumb looked at the beginning," Lowrie said. "I think it was a fairly quick process. Fifteen days seems like an eternity in baseball, but when you're dealing with an injury like that, I'm happy with how quick it went."
Lowrie, who traditionally has been a stronger hitter from the right side of the plate, had a great spring swinging from the left side, including a pair of home runs. He hopes to be able to continue that into the regular season. He was 3-for-6 with two RBIs and in two rehab starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"I think I really made nice strides from the left side of the plate," he said. "I'm going to continue to build on that, and for me that means the work I put in the cage and batting practice and knowing the results would be there. I hit the ball well in Oklahoma and had some good at-bats and saw a lot of pitches, and I think I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish."
Astros players break down Marlins' new field
MIAMI -- The Astros took early batting practice Friday, which afforded the players the chance to get acquainted with Marlins Park. The new retractable-roof ballpark, which opened late last month, has a definite South Florida feeling with lime green outfield walls and a gaudy home run sculpture in left-center field.
"It's very flashy," Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "It seems very Miami. It will be interesting to see. I don't know yet if we'll get to play with the roof open. It will be interesting to see how it changes from how the ball plays with the roof open and closed. It seems big."
The ballpark has a small pool beyond the left-field wall, as well as a fish tank directly behind home plate. The home run sculpture beyond left-center field is a combination of dolphins, palm trees and flamingos that lights up when a Marlins player homers.
"It's pretty cool," catcher Jason Castro said of the park. "It's definitely unlike anything I've ever seen before with lime green fences and the home run thing, which they put on a couple of times [during batting practice]. It looks like it plays pretty big, though, from what we've seen so far with the limited swings we've had on the field."
The playing surface measures 344 feet down the left-field line, 386 in the left-center field gap, 418 to center field, 392 to the right-center field gap and 335 down the right-field line. Initial reports are the ball carries much better with the roof open than when it's closed, which it was Friday.
"You can be a little more aggressive in bigger parks, so we'll see how it ends up playing and we'll stick to the game plan and our strengths," Castro said. "We do what we plan on doing and let the park take care of itself."
Lowrie's return means Altuve moves down in order
MIAMI -- The debut of Jed Lowrie, who was activated from the disabled list on Thursday and hit second in the order on Friday, meant second baseman Jose Altuve was moved to the No. 8 spot in the order. Altuve hit second in the five starts he had made prior to Friday.
"I've been working so hard on being patient at the plate," Altuve said. "I don't really care where I hit, leadoff, second or eighth. I just want to come to the field and see my last name and go out on the field and do the best I can and try to help my team win."
Altuve, who reached base in the first five games he played this year, entered Friday with three walks in 23 plate appearances after walking just five times last year in 234 plate appearances. He said hitting eighth in the order won't change his approach.
"I think the pitchers are going to be more aggressive and sometimes they're going to pitch away because they're going to try to face the pitcher," he said. "Like I said before, I have to be smart and keep working hard."