BOSTON -- The Astros' first trip to Boston as a member of the American League has extra meaning to slugger Carlos Pena, who spent part of his childhood in Boston and attended Northeastern University, which is just a few blocks from Fenway.
"There's so much history in this park, so many great players and great teams," he said. "This is the oldest stadium in baseball, with maybe Wrigley Field right there also. It's always special. I always pause every time I come here and make sure I know where I'm at and truly appreciate what's going on. I don't ever take something like this for granted. It's very special."
Pena came to countless Red Sox games as a kid and dreamed about playing at Fenway Park. He's a career .248 hitter with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 64 career games in Boston, where he played for one season in 2006.
"I don't care if I've been here 100 times since then, it's always very special to me and I'm not going to take one day for granted," Pena said.
Pena said he loved to see the team's younger players, such as Jose Altuve, arrive early to the ballpark on Thursday and take a tour.
"As soon as I walked in, I was asking everybody, 'What did you think?'" Pena said. "I was just anticipating of seeing how much they were going to enjoy just being here in Fenway. It's always fun to come back and see old friends and walk around places I'm so familiar with. I went to school just two blocks down the road. It's awesome to get up in the morning and walk around."
Porter likes having Grossman, Altuve atop lineup
BOSTON -- The top of the Astros' lineup has looked different over the last couple of games with rookie Robbie Grossman in the leadoff spot in place of Jose Altuve, who was moved to the No. 2 spot in the batting order beginning Wednesday.
Grossman, who made his Major League debut Wednesday, has had a high on-base percentage throughout the Minor Leagues, which would be ideal in the leadoff spot for the Astros if he can continue to do that at the Major League level.
"It changes the dynamics, because you always want to have guys at the top of the lineup that get on base," manager Bo Porter said. "Grossman did a great job at Spring Training. Every time we put him in a game, positive things happened. He's a guy who's led off his whole career, and to have him and Altuve at the top of the lineup, getting on base for the middle of the lineup, it gives us a greater opportunity to score runs."
When asked if second was the ideal spot for a contact hitter like Altuve, Porter said: "I would love to hit Altuve one through nine, but I don't think the other team will let me."
Grossman was a career .267 hitter with a .379 on-base percentage in 511 career Minor League games, while Altuve entered Thursday tied for first in the American League with 30 hits.
"If we can find someone to hit in the one hole who's going to get on base and you have a couple of guys at the bottom of the lineup who can put the ball in play consistently, now we have three guys that can get on base in front of Altuve, who's not just one of the better hitters in our league but one of the best hitters in the game," Porter said. "The more guys you get on base in front of him, it creates chances to score runs."
Trembley tutors outfielders nuances of Green Monster
BOSTON -- In addition to giving some of the players a behind-the-scenes tour of Fenway Park on Thursday, third-base coach Dave Trembley also was able to provide advice on the nuances of playing at Fenway, including how to deal with the Green Monster in left field.
"The game will speed up here late. The fans will stay with the team no matter what the score is. No lead is safe here because of that. The games can change here in a hurry because of that right there," said Trembley, who pointed to pointed to Green Monster.
The famed Green Monster is only 304 feet from home plate down the left-field line, but it's 37 feet tall, which presents a unique set of challenges.
"As far as the batter or runner, as soon as the ball is hit and you know it's high enough to hit the wall, don't wait for it to hit the wall to start running," Trembley said. "It's hard enough to take extra bases here, because it's so short. Say you're on first base and you think the ball is going to be high enough to hit the wall, start running right away and pick up your coach."
Trembley also cautioned the outfielders that if a ball gets hit over their heads and is going to strike the wall, they should recognize it early.
"That ball will hit hard and go right out to shortstop," Trembley said. "You tell our outfielders if you're on the warning track and the ball is over your head, start running straight into home plate, because the ball is going to hit the wall and ricochet towards home plate."
Grossman enjoying first cup of coffee with Astros
BOSTON -- It's been a whirlwind 48 hours for outfielder Robbie Grossman, who found out Tuesday he was being called up to the Major Leagues, had a pair of hits in a win over the Mariners on Wednesday and was penciled as the leadoff hitter Thursday at Fenway Park.
"Last night, it took me awhile to get to sleep," said Grossman, a Houston-area product who was traded to the Astros last July and is the club's No. 18 prospect. "I still had a lot of adrenaline going from the game. Once I woke up and realized we were in Boston and would be at Fenway Park, it was pretty exciting."
Grossman's father, Rob, was expected to be in Boston to watch his son play on Friday, but he couldn't stay the entire series, because Robbie's younger brother, Charlie, has his high school prom this weekend. His parents didn't have to drive far to see him play Wednesday at Minute Maid Park.
"It was an exciting time for me and my family, and I was happy for my parents to watch me play in a big league game," he said. "It was a special time for them."
Astros take pregame tour of historic Fenway
BOSTON -- Several Astros players got to Fenway Park early on Thursday to soak up as much as they could. Third-base coach Dave Trembley, who's familiar with Fenway from his time as manager of the Orioles, took a handful of players, including Hector Ambriz, Wesley Wright, Bud Norris and Jose Altuve, on a behind-the-scenes tour.
Trembley took the players to the seats atop the Green Monster and inside the scoreboard, where they could sign their name alongside the greats of the game. He also took them to see the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
"It's a pretty special place," said Wright, the team's longest-tenured player. "I've seen Wrigley and now to see Fenway, the baseball tour is kind of complete. There's a lot of good stadiums out there, and this place is right up there with the history and the tradition and the great players who have played here. Hopefully I can go out and have some good games while I'm here and really enjoy this place."
Rookie outfielder Brandon Barnes, who hit his first career home at Wrigley Field last year, knows what a privilege it is to play at Fenway, too.
"You just kind of look around, and when you get the Monster and see all the names that are there from different guys over the years, it's a true baseball field," he said. "When you're playing baseball in your backyard, you envision yourself at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley. To be here and to play here is unreal."
Providers offered chance to air free Astros games
BOSTON -- Comcast SportsNet Houston, a partnership between the Astros, NBA's Houston Rockets and the NBC Sports Group, announced Thursday they are offering an unprecedented program to provide the new network -- free of charge -- to satellite, cable and telco providers across a five-state region.
The 37-day free trial, which has been presented to DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, DISH, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable and more throughout the network's five-state region, is set to begin immediately and extend through May 31. The Astros will play 34 games in that span.
"We are pleased that CSN Houston is offering its service free of charge to television providers across the five-state region," Astros president and CEO George Postolos said in a statement. "The Astros want to be on television in every household. This offers at least a temporary fix as CSN Houston and the providers work towards a permanent agreement. We hope the providers agree to CSN's offer."
These Astros telecasts are in addition to CSN Houston's coverage of the Rockets playoff run and Dynamo regular-season games.
"We understand that fans have been frustrated as we work through our negotiations with providers and have already collected more than 100,000 petitions for our network," CSN Houston president & general manager Matt Hutchings said in a statement. "While those negotiations must continue, our leadership team feels that this next stretch of games for the Rockets, Astros and Dynamo should be made available to the fans. This free trial comes with a sizable loss that our network will take on, but we feel that it is the right thing to do. We are hopeful that our affiliate partners at DirecTV, AT&T, Dish, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable and others across our region will take us up on this unprecedented offer and make it available to their customers."
For more information on CSN Houston's free trial, fans can contact their provider in order to find out if CSN Houston's coverage of the Rockets, Astros and Dynamo will be placed on their channel lineup during this limited time.