Astros learn they must walk before they can run

The Sports Xchange
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The Astros are a bunch of walking men, in what is perhaps the most surprising development of an improved early part of the season.

Manager Brad Mills reiterated that the early bump in walks and in patience in general is more a product of hitters maturing, in addition to players arriving and returning from injury.

Is starting to resemble the patient teams he had with the Red Sox.

Mills' Astros went into their off-day on Thursday resting happily in third place in the National League in walks after finishing last in that category in 2011. This is the more familiar lineup to watch for Mills.

When Mills was Terry Francona's bench coach in Boston from 2004-09, a veteran team finished first in the American League four times and second in the other two years.

"It was stressed an awful lot," Mills said of his Boston experience. "Probably a lot like we did here. It becomes a mindset and a confident mindset that you don't have any problem hitting with two strikes."

That mindset was drilled into players early this season. Jose Altuve and Jordan Schafer, both of whom hit at the top of the Astros' lineup, did drills all spring to improve selectivity.

Mills attributed much of the increase to getting Jason Castro back after an ACL injury as well as the addition of Jed Lowrie and the start of full seasons for J.D. Martinez and Brian Bogusevic, both late additions in 2011.

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