HOUSTON -- A.J. Hinch will put on his Astros uniform for the first time on Saturday when pitchers and catchers begin working out at Osceola Stadium, but calling him someone who's "new" to the Houston managerial job might be somewhat misleading.
Hinch was hired quickly following the end of last season, which general manager Jeff Luhnow did by design to give both men more time to put a staff together and form a strong relationship with each other. It's clear entering camp Hinch and Luhnow form a strong alliance, which wasn't always the case last year with Luhnow and former manager Bo Porter.
"We all wear the same colors here," said Hinch, who moved to Houston in January and was in the office frequently this winter. "We need to be on the same page. We're coming at it from different angles. What I've seen in my career, whether it's on the field or the front office, there's different perspectives on the game and how teams are built and the value of things."
All the trades and free-agent signings made this winter required input from various voices, but the collaborative process didn't stop there. When Hinch and the coaching staff can speak their mind on various topics throughout the season, it leads to a stronger organization.
Luhnow and Porter butted heads on several occasions last year, leading to the manager's dismissal in early September. Hinch was on the job a month later and was instrumental in all of the offseason moves the Astros made this winter to upgrade the team. It helps that Hinch has held some of the same roles as Luhnow, including serving as farm director with the Diamondbacks and was even assistant general manager in San Diego.
"When I interviewed for this job, a couple of things were promised," said Hinch, who managed the Diamondbacks from 2009-10. "Number one, there was a togetherness that was promised. From the field to the front office to the players, I feel a general optimism because we were all on the same page."
Hinch said he was also promised an investment by ownership, which raised the payroll by about $20 million this winter to around $70 million. He said he was also promised cohesiveness and collaboration, and the coaching staff was involved in a lot of the offseason decision-making and was able to weigh in as a group.
"For that, I'm very grateful because we all feel a part of this," Hinch said.
Luhnow said that while everyone is working for the same goal, they don't want everyone in the organization to be completely like-minded, either.
"We want diversity of option and a good, healthy debate when it comes to how do we improve this team because there is no obvious answer," he said. "There are opinions and you have to consider as many options as you can. One of the things I enjoy about the process this offseason is … there's been times when A.J. or members of his staff have come up with ideas we weren't considering and we pursued some of those and actually executed them.
"I think, again, it's having the same goal, but having various ways to reach that goal and discussing them and debating them and picking the ones that are best for the organization."