WASHINGTON -- The Astros entered Tuesday with a .399 on-base percentage, which was the third-best mark in the National League. Among the regular starters with high on-base percentages were Jed Lowrie (.429), J.D. Martinez (.409), Jose Altuve (.390) and Jordan Schafer (.383).
Astros hitting coach Mike Barnett worked diligently in Spring Training to make sure the Astros were more selective at the plate. Barnett's drill of placing seven baseballs, numbered one through seven, across the front of the plate and having the players focus on pitches thrown over the middle three has helped improve pitch selection.
"We're trying to keep focused on having the mindset, especially early in the count or after you get two strikes, to stay where their strengths are, and almost everybody's strengths are balls three, four and five, which is the middle of the plate," Barnett said. "You can adjust one way or the other on pitches, having that mindset of trying to stay in that little hole where they want the ball and expecting it to be there every pitch."
The ability to draw more walks is simply a byproduct of the drill, which is really to allow hitters to swing at the pitches they want to hit.
"They're looking for the ball in this area, and if it shows up, they'll go after it," Barnett said. "If they're expecting it to be there, they'll let it go."
Maxwell gets first start against former club
WASHINGTON -- Justin Maxwell, claimed off waivers by the Astros from the Yankees earlier this season, was in the starting lineup for the first time, playing center field on Tuesday. Maxwell was drafted by the Nationals in 2005, and played 122 games for them between 2007-10.
"I'm excited to get out there and play," Maxwell said before the game. "I think last year in Spring Training it was weird, and playing against the Nationals' Triple-A team when I was with the Yankees, that was kind of weird. And then this year, I played them a couple of times again in Spring Training and it was all business. I think I'm past all the jitters and all the other stuff."
The trip to Washington serves as sort of a homecoming for Maxwell, who was born in Olney, Md., and attended the University of Maryland. He lives about an hour away from the nation's capital, but said his parents and a few other friends and family members would be in attendance Tuesday.
"They're excited to see me play in an Astros uniform," he said.
Maxwell took early batting practice Tuesday to make sure he was prepared to get four or five at-bats. He singled to center in his first at-bat.
"I have experience playing in the National League, and you can kind of think along with [manager Brad Mills] and know when you're going to get your opportunities in the game, and [when] you might get the occasional start," he said. "They've been good about communicating with everybody about what their roles are, so there's no surprise."
Mills had wanted to get Maxwell in the lineup, but it didn't hurt that starting center fielder Jordan Schafer is sick with a cough. Schafer said he became ill in his hotel in Miami last weekend and hasn't been able to shake it.
"I feel terrible," he said.
Astros in 'pretty good spot' for 2012 Draft
WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball announced the selection order for the 2012 First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, which will take place June 4-6. The Astros will have the No. 1 overall pick, No. 41 (compensation for Clint Barmes signing with Pittsburgh) and No. 61, which is the first pick of the second round.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the Astros have already set aside enough money to pay the signing bonuses for their Draft picks.
"We have a feeling of what it is going to take, and it's fully funded," he said. "We're in a pretty good spot."
Some of the names being mentioned as potential top picks are such college pitchers as Stanford's Mark Appel, LSU's Kevin Gausman, the University of San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer and Texas A&M's Michael Wacha; Florida catcher Mike Zunino; and Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton.
Per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club is assigned an aggregate signing-bonus pool of money used to sign players picked in the first 10 rounds. The Astros have the second-highest pool behind the Twins, who pick No. 2 overall and have two supplemental first-round picks.
Any team that spends beyond the pool for the first 10 rounds will face stiff penalties, from heavy fines to the loss of future Draft picks.
"We don't know how the signability is going to work, but we hope [players] sign recognizing they're going to have a chance to sign for more down the line, which was a problem in the past," Luhnow said.
The Draft will have 40 rounds this year instead of 50.
Astros add second Colt .45s jersey giveaway
WASHINGTON -- In response to the fans wishes, a replica Colt .45s jersey with the revolver on the front will be added as a giveaway item for one of the games during Legends Weekend, which is scheduled for Sept. 21-23. The date of that game will be announced in the near future.
The first 10,000 fans attending Friday's game against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park will receive a replica Colt .45s jersey without the revolver. The Astros will wear the original Colt .45s jerseys with the revolver Friday as part of "Flashback Fridays."
In March, after Astros fans voiced their opinion to include the revolver on the jersey that will be worn by Astros players, owner Jim Crane made the decision to add it to the players' jerseys. But the 10,000 replica jerseys had to be ordered well in advance of Crane's decision, in order to arrive in time for Friday night's game.
Former pitcher Larry Dierker, who played for the Colt .45s and Astros, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday. Dierker, who was inducted into the new Astros Walk of Fame with several others on April 10, will also sign autographs from 6-6:30 p.m. CT, near section 118.
Outfielder Collin DeLome, the Astros' top signed pick from the 2007 Draft, has been released by the club. None of the players from that year's Draft have made the Major Leagues. The Astros lost their top two picks that year for signing free agents, and then failed to sign their third- and fourth-round picks. DeLome, taken in the fifth round, was hitting .176 in 17 at-bats at Triple-A Round Rock.