Mier Gets Much-Deserved Downtime




HOUSTON—A year of firsts for shortstop Jiovanni Mier ended with his first time as a professional baseball player just kicking back in Southern California.

Of course the offseason is not all play for Mier, the 21st overall pick in the 2009 draft. He'll spend the winter getting his body in shape after a taxing first season. He did not have prolonged negotiations like many of his fellow first-rounders, so he played nearly the whole season for Rookie-level Greeneville.

"Around August, your body starts feeling that you're playing every day and what it's like," Mier said. "It really takes a toll on your body. My body wasn't quite used to it, but it wasn't too bad."

Coming into the organization, Mier earned praise for his intangibles in addition to his obvious talent, and that assessment has not changed.

"He naturally leads without any effort," assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said.

Mier also produced in the Appalachian League, hitting .276/.380/.484 with seven doubles, six triples and seven homers. He faced a barrage of fastballs that he said surprised him, because he expected to see more breaking balls and changeups at the professional level.

Defensively, he was caught off guard a bit as well. He's still praised for his hands and his footwork but made 18 errors in 51 games. Improving his defense at short has taken up a lot of his attention in his first months as a pro.

"There's a lot more than I expected with how much defense there is to learn," Mier said. "There's a lot more to it."

Mier will attend a pre-spring training camp with the Astros, and he will likely start 2010 at low Class A Lexington.

SPACE SHOTS

n  The Astros were working to have reliever Evan Engelbrook, 27, pitch late in Arizona Fall League games. Engelbrook, a 6-foot-8 power righty, pitched in Double-A and Triple-A this season and has a mid-90s fastball with good sink.

n Jose Vallejo, one of the players acquired in the Ivan Rodriguez trade, was added to the active roster for Peoria in the AFL. The second baseman got off to a slow start, hitting .125 with no extra-base hits through his first six games.