KISSIMMEE, Fla. - It's not uncommon for players to wear unusually high numbers at spring camp, and no one has a higher jersey number than Rudy Owens' No. 99. But Owens is totally fine with the number and hopes to be able to wear it in the Major Leagues.
Owens, a left-handed starting pitcher acquired by the Astros from Pittsburgh in the Wandy Rodriguez trade, wanted to wear No. 9 with the Pirates, but the number is retired in honor of Bill Mazeroski.
"I thought if I couldn't have No. 9, I want 99, which is even better," Owens said. "I just started getting it every Spring Training and made it a thing when I get to the big leagues, I'm going to get No. 99. It gives me something to look forward to, I guess. I pick my own number."
Owens wouldn't be the first Astros player to wear No. 99 in a Major League game. Mitch Williams wore the number in 1994, and the number was brought back into prominence in the Majors recently when Manny Ramirez wore it with the Dodgers.
Owens has worn No. 48 in the Minor Leagues so far.
Cosart, Zeid eager to face former team Phillies
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - When the Astros open Grapefruit League play Saturday against the Phillies (12:05 p.m. CT on MLB.TV) in Clearwater, Fla., it will be a homecoming of sorts for pitchers Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid, both of whom are scheduled to pitch against their former teams.
Cosart and Zeid were among four players the Astros acquired in the July 2011 trade that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia. Cosart was drafted in the 38th round by the Phillies in 2008 out of Clear Creek High School near Houston, and Zeid was taken in the 10th round in 2009.
"It's exciting," Cosart said. "I'm going to have to try to keep my emotions down. It's going to be a good experience and a good time to see a lot of old guys, old friends. I hopefully get to talk to them a little bit. Being back in that environment I was familiar with for three years, it's going to be great."
When Cosart was talking about getting amped up to face his old team, teammate John Ely reminded him not to get to get overly excited. Ely was fired up to face the White Sox, who traded him to the Dodgers in 2009.
"It's easier said than done, but when I get there I told [Zeid] we'll have to help calm each other down," Cosart said. "You want to go out there and have a good showing against the team that drafted you, but you want to keep everything under control and try not to do too much."
Zeid went 2-0 with a 5.59 ERA in 47 appearances at Double-A Corpus Christ last year.
"I had a really good relationship with everybody over there, and I want to go back and show them what I've learned the last couple of years and how far I've come," he said.
• Astros manager Bo Porter said he's working to get legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry to be at his managerial debut March 31 at Minute Maid Park. He said Fry follows everything that goes on with the Astros with "great anticipation." Porter played football at Iowa under Fry.
• The Astros have set the rotation for the first few days of Grapefruit League play: Lucas Harrell on Saturday (12:05 p.m. CT on MLB.TV) against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Bud Norris on Sunday (12:05 p.m. CT) against the Mets at home and Philip Humber on Monday (12:05 p.m. CT) in Jupiter against the Cardinals. Erik Bedard will start a split-squad game at home Tuesday (12:05 p.m. CT) against the Tigers, and Jordan Lyles will start Tuesday (12:05 p.m. CT) against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Alex White starts Wednesday (12:05 p.m. CT) against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.