KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Five things to know about the Houston Astros:
1. Look around and you'll see a new manager (Brad Mills), a new third baseman (Pedro Feliz), a new rookie shortstop (Tommy Manzella), a couple of new key relievers (Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom) ... but as Lance Berkman says, "We are not in a rebuilding mode. We've got guys here who can really do things. I think our pitching staff is a lot better than it was a year ago. Our defense is good. Health is a big factor. We've got some older guys who are going to be called on. We've got to stay healthy. Roy (Oswalt) has to stay on the mound."
2. The Astros last season ranked 27th in the majors in runs scored and 23rd in runs allowed. That first part doesn't bother Berkman so much. It's the run prevention -- pitching and defense -- that will make or break the Astros. "Offensively, I really could care less," Berkman says. "We went to the World Series with probably the worst offense in history. So you can throw that out right there. If we have pitching and defense, we have enough offense to support that."
3. Oswalt, coming off of a career-low eight wins, says his back feels good following a winter of rehab after the Astros shut him down for the final few weeks of 2009. Oswalt is thrilled with the acquisition of Feliz at third. For reasons Mills expresses pretty well: "He's arguably, if not the best, one of the best third basemen in baseball," Mills says of Feliz. "Anytime you get a guy that solid defensively into the mix, it helps shore up that side of the infield."
4. First up in camp is to settle on catching, which is a little sketchy at this point. The light-hitting duo of Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles is what Mills has to choose from unless ... unless prospect Jason Castro, Houston's first-round choice in the 2008 draft, develops quickly this spring. Given his trajectory at Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi last year, the Astros are hoping it happens. But he didn't show much power and isn't projected to become a superstar anytime soon.
5. Issue to watch: Berkman, in the final year of his contract. Will the Astros negotiate an extension with him? Will he leave? "I may have to, whether I like it or not," says Berkman, whose 25 homers and 80 RBI represented some of his lowest production of his career. "It may come down to a situation where if things don't go well they don't pick up my option, then I probably won't be back." Then? "If they don't pick it up, I'll probably take my ball and go home." Berkman said he could retire with no problem at year's end. Though he added that he probably would keep playing.