Robbie Grossman played high school baseball at Cy-Fair High School, about 24 miles northwest of Houston's Minute Maid Park. The 23-year-old outfielder grew up watching a Houston Astros team featuring Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman. Now, Grossman is the center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Astros.
"I couldn't be happier because I grew up in Houston rooting for this team," Grossman said Friday afternoon, before the start of a three-game series against the Pirates at PNC Park. "To put on this uniform is pretty special."
The Pirates drafted Grossman in the sixth round of the 2008 draft, but sent him and pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain to the Astros last year in exchange for Wandy Rodriguez. At the start of this season, Grossman's first foray into Class AAA ball, he hit .324 with a .452 on-base percentage before the Astros added him to the major league roster.
He went 2 for 5 with two doubles in his debut April 24, then went on a road trip that allowed him to play in Boston's Fenway Park and New York's Yankee Stadium. "It was definitely a surreal experience just to be in the big leagues, playing in Boston and New York," he said. "I got to see those stadiums and lay on those fields. It was pretty special."
Grossman entered the game Friday hitting .205 with a .311 on-base percentage. "I want to get better every day," he said. "You're never as good as you want to be."
The Astros are a team in transition, as the front office has parted with its more expensive players. Houston hasn't finished above .500 since 2008 and won fewer than 60 games in each of the past two seasons. The Astros' 2013 opening-day payroll was $27.3 million, and they are playing $5 million of Rodriguez's 2013 salary, effectively making him their highest-paid player.
Still, Grossman said the experience has been special. "This is a major league baseball team," he said.
Grossman's locker at PNC Park was next to that of Carlos Pena, a 35-year-old who has played in the majors for 13 seasons. Grossman said he tried to absorb what information he could from the players with more experience.
"Just enjoy it," Grossman said. "Enjoy your time. Enjoy the process of being up here and playing every day."
Catcher traded to Nationals
Class AAA Indianapolis catcher Brian Jeroloman was traded to the Washington Nationals organization for a player to be named later or cash. The Nationals put catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list and had to call up Jhonatan Solano from Class AAA Syracuse. Jeroloman probably will provide catching depth in Syracuse.
Karstens on schedule
Pitcher Jeff Karstens is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start today and throw four innings or 60 pitches. He has suffered from shoulder pain since spring training. He threw 42 pitches in three innings Monday with Class A Bradenton.
Right-hander Jose Contreras was placed on the bereavement list because of to a death in his family. Right-hander Jared Hughes was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis. Contreras must spend at least three days on the bereavement list and can stay there as long as seven days. Hughes allowed seven runs in 132/3 innings before the Pirates optioned him to Indianapolis in early May.