*Rob Manfred announced some pace of play changes for the 2018 season. Those changes:
-Six mound visits during the nine-inning portion of the game.
-One mound visit per extra inning, if necessary.
-Enforcement of rule introduced last year of batters stepping out of the box.
-No pitch clock...yet.
And Ol' Boy Justin Verlander isn't real thrilled about it. Verlander:
It's frustrating. This is a band-aid. When guys are on base, the game comes to a screeching halt. I don't think the adjustments they're going to make are going to change anything. Maybe you save a few minutes.
Charlie Morton envisions these changes as the first steps to a dystopian hellscape:
Before you know it, we're going to be shooting the ball out of the sky with lasers like Cyclops from X-Men.
I don't know. I don't care if a baseball game lasts 2:57 or 3:10. Those 13 minutes aren't terribly important to me. I'd rather a game last 20 minutes longer and my favorite team wins that game than be done by 9:35pm and the Astros have lost 4-1 because they were out of mound visits and Hector Rondon served up a 91mph meatball down the middle of the plate because he and McCann couldn't talk about pitch sequencing for 15 seconds.
*Jose Altuve is currently leading the league in humility:
Being the MVP last year, it's something I'm never going to forget. For that, I've got to thank my teammates. They are the ones that play hard every day. I think they do all the heavy jobs and I just support them, and I'm one more players here in this clubhouse that wants to go out and win.
And Altuve is happy with his current contract while also looking forward to the next one. Altuve:
If I wouldn't have signed that deal, I don't know if I would have played as good as I have played. So I wouldn't change anything, because obviously it worked out good for me.
*Alex Bregman totally revamped his diet for the 2018 season. Bregman:
Dad bods are in, but I don't know how many homers they've got.
Before I'd eat like cheeseburgers and pizza for every meal and drink about eight Dr. Peppers a day. Since the World Series ended I've had zero Dr. Peppers and hired a chef.
*Marwin Gonzalez would like to stay in Houston long-term, but doesn't want to be thinking about it throughout the last season before he hits free agency. Marwin:
I'm going to try to forget about that during the season and try to have a good year, try to help the team to win again. That's the goal. I feel Houston is my home. I love the city, I love the fans and I love this team, and in a perfect scenario, I'd like to play here for my whole career.
*Surprise! The Astros probably aren't making a play for Jake Arrieta. But Luhnow acknowledges that you never know what can happen - injury-wise - during Spring Training.
*This Friday's Spring Training opener will be on AT&T SportsNet SW, coverage beginning at 11:30am.
*Dan Szymborski, in an Insider-only piece, looks at the six teams who have the best shot at preventing a Houston repeat.
*Brian Arbour wrote about the importance of Francis Martes' 2018 on 2019 and beyond.
*Down at the end of Tags' notebook, we find an interesting note: had Lance McCullers not bounced back in September, the Astros strongly considered bringing up Forrest Whitley.
*The Red Sox gave J.D. Martinez $110m, just like we all predicted in 2013. He signed for $100m less than he initially wanted.