While using 11 rookies, often with three or more in the starting lineup, the Astros posted the second-best record in the NL Central after June 1. They've come back almost intact, having added only veteran infielders Cliff Barmes and Bill Hall.
"The young core that they've got is full of talent, and the staff is very solid," said Barmes, acquired in a November trade with Colorado. "There's no reason we can't pick up where they left off last year and go out and put ourselves in a good situation."
They put themselves in a bad situation last spring, enough to remain firmly under the radar while going 59-52 the last two-thirds of the season. Even if no one noticed, the Astros did.
"They did such a good job and had so much success from June on last year. They've seen the success they had in that period. Let 'em build on that," manager Brad Mills said, "just the knowledge that they've done that and knowing they can do it again."
"I think everyone has the same feeling from the way we played from the All-Star break on," closer Brandon Lyon said. "It wasn't one aspect of our team that would win games. We would get timely hits, we'd pitch well, we'd play good defense, I think everyone's excited from that.
"We need to use this time to get ready to have everybody playing that way again. I think everybody knows what we're capable of doing."
Barmes, who moved primarily to second base when Troy Tulowitzki emerged as the Rockies' second baseman, was brought in to anchor Houston's young infield at shortstop.
"That's pretty much what I've been my whole career. Even the last few years, I felt like a shortstop playing at second base," Barmes said. "So I don't see any big adjustment that needs to be made."
NOTES: Hall was excused for personal reasons. He is expected to arrive in camp Wednesday. ... Tommy Manzella, the starting SS at the beginning of last season, will take ground balls at 2B and 3B this spring. ... Houston pitchers will throw live batting practice Monday. ... The Astros will play an intrasquad game next Sunday and open their exhibition season at Disney World against Atlanta the following day.