Crane hosting dinner for Astros players, staff

Crane hosting dinner for Astros players, staff

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros players and staff were invited by owner Jim Crane to take part in a dinner Wednesday night at his Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., which sits about 30 minutes north of the team's new Spring Training complex.

Crane led the charge for the Astros to move from Kissimmee to West Palm Beach, where they share Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the Nationals. In the past, Crane has addressed the team prior to the first full day of workouts, but he saved his pep talk for the dinner this year.

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"We'll be able to entertain some of our customers here and guys will be able to play a little golf up there," Crane said. "Tonight we're going to have a big dinner and say, 'Let's go.'"

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he and his staff and players were looking forward to spending time together away from the field.

"It will be a fun event and a nice time for our owner to introduce himself to some of the new guys and also host a small party," he said.

Crane, paying his first visit to the complex since camp started, spoke with pride on Wednesday to the media about having the facility up and running. The stadium remains under construction but should largely be ready when the Astros and Nationals christen it on Tuesday.

"We've been working on it for actually four years since I think we tried to get the land secured and get it built, but it's nice to see it come around," Crane said. "There's a few loose ends, but we'll get them tightened up. We're still scrambling on the stadium, but the players are happy. It flows really well getting in and out to the training room and the field. It's in close proximity."

The Astros went into rebuild mode after Crane bought the club in 2011. They stripped down the payroll, stockpiled their farm system and made a surprise playoff appearance in '15. Crane has continued to increase payroll each year, and it should be around $120 million following the signings of infielder Yulieski Gurriel (last July), outfielders Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick, and the trade for catcher Brian McCann this offseason.

"The expectations are high," Crane said. "We have to play every game, play every pitch, work at it, but we have a really good team."

The club tried to acquire another starting pitcher in the offseason and Crane hinted it could still be in position to make more moves into the season.

"When you look at the three main players we added with McCann and Reddick and Beltran, we filled three big holes on paper and now we have to go play," he said. "That added a big boost to the team. You always want to add depth in your pitching. We're in a position where we could make some adjustments if we have to. We're constantly looking to improve, so we've got a little room to do that if we need to."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.