KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez is gripping the bat a little different these days.
Martinez started choking up about an inch from the bottom of the barrel of the bat following last year's surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand. The knob of the bat had been digging into his palm, which led to the injury. By choking up, Martinez has reduced the friction.
To help him remember to choke up, Martinez has made a small pad around the top of the knob.
"At the beginning, it was weird," he said. "I was kind of resistant to it. I felt a relief when I did it, though. The next day wasn't as sore. That's probably it. I started doing it and once you start swinging, you get used to it."
A hitting coach Martinez uses back home in Miami suggested Martinez try choking up, and so far the results have been good for his health.
"Once [the hand] gets better and I don't have to worry about it, I can try doing something else or go back [to his original grip]," Martinez said. "But for right now, to get rid of some of the inflammation I still have in there, I'm just trying to minimize the irritation that's going on."
Clemens tries to fire up Astros prior to workout
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Joking that his luggage had finally arrived, Astros special instructor Roger Clemens was at camp Monday wearing baseball pants as he took time to speak to the pitchers and catchers prior to Monday's workout at Osceola County Stadium.
"I got to visit with all of them and basically share the coaches' expectations of what they're expecting from the guys," Clemens said. "I told them I would be excited if I was around camp right now applying for a job. There's a lot of openings. I tried to fire them up and tell them we're not just a newcomer to the league, and gave them some examples and talked about some of my teammates over the 24 years -- some of them I named, some of them I didn't.
"That part of the game for me in the 15, 20 minutes I spent with them inside is just as important to me as going out and working on their drills, working on their bullpen, working on a seven-inning shutout game -- that mental part of the game. Physically I told them I was always prepared and ahead of the next guy, and no one was going to beat me mentally."
Clemens told the group how important it is to care about your job and never to take anything for granted. He was mentored early in his career in Boston by Tom Seaver and even met Ted Williams. Clemens also received advice from Don Drysdale early in his career.
"Any time I had an opportunity to talk to Nolan Ryan, I did a lot of listening," he said. "I looked at 8-by-10 photos of their mechanics and leg drive. I told [the Astros pitchers and catchers], 'I hope there's a 20-game winner in this clubhouse.' If that doesn't get you, they're paying guys really good money to be just average …
"Hopefully we got the attention of a few of them."
Clemens issues statement on death of McCready
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Roger Clemens, who's spending a few days in camp with the Astros in his role a special instructor, met with the media Monday morning and issued a typed statement about the passing of country music star Mindy McCready, who was a former friend of Clemens'.
According to multiple reports, McCready, 37, was found dead Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her Arkansas home. McCready, who had a string of hits in the 1990s, had battled addiction and dealt with other personal issues in recent years.
Clemens' statement read:
"Yes, this is sad news. I had heard over time that she was trying to get peace and direction in her life. The few times that I had met her and her manager/agent they were extremely nice."
Porter stresses need for long reliever in 'pen
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When it comes to constructing his bullpen, manager Bo Porter says having someone capable of pitching in long relief is crucial. In fact, Porter prefers to have a pair of long relievers to avoid wear and tear on the bullpen.
"It's something I've always stressed and I've always believed in," he said. "It saves your staff when you do have that unfortunate start as a starter and he gets in trouble early. You're not blowing through guys in the bullpen. You're able to bring in a guy who's stretched out and has starter experience, and he's able to go two or three innings, which saves a bullpen and gives you a chance to win."
Last year, former Astros manager Brad Mills wasn't a believer in having a long-relief pitcher. The Astros will be in the American League this year and, with the exception of Interleague games on the road, won't have pitchers batting, so long relievers will be able to eat up innings without being burned for a pinch hitter.
"The real game starts when the starting pitcher comes out of the game," Porter said. "The best decision a manager is going to make is when to take a starting pitcher out of the game, because it's not just that game today [you have to be concerned about]. A lot of times as a manager, it's a decision you make in the fourth inning who you will bring into that game that's going to affect the next two to three games."
• Astros right-hander Bud Norris will still be able to make his first scheduled start of the spring Sunday despite being gone from camp for a couple of days following the death of his grandmother. Manager Bo Porter said Norris will fly to California following Tuesday's workout and return to camp Thursday without missing any live batting practice sessions.