Mier Stays Positive After Down Season





KISSIMMEE, Fla. In the moment, it was no fun hovering around .200 for the first two months of the season, but shortstop Jiovanni Mier said that in retrospect, he was better for the experience.

Mier reflected recently on his first full professional season for low Class A Lexington last year, a far cry from his breakout debut for Rookie-level Greeneville in 2009. He recovered a bit in the second-half, but still finished at .235/.323/.314 for the Legends with 107 strikeouts and 63 walks in 493 at-bats.

"It was just a very humbling experience," Mier said. "It was great for me to go through that. I wish I never did, but I learned from it."

He spoke from a very different place than the occasionally manicured fields of the South Atlantic League, having been invited to his first big league spring training as a stipulation of the contract he signed when the Astros drafted him 21st overall in 2009 out of Bonita High in LaVerne, Calif.

And he spoke from a very different body, as well, one that Astros general manager Ed Wade called "a man-sized body."

Mier, who had lost 15 pounds by midseason in 2010, said he gained 20 in the offseason while working out in his native Southern California. Whether his power recovers with the weight gain to the seven home runs that accompanied six triples in just 51 Appalachian League games in 2009 is still a question. (He hit two home runs and one triple last year in 131 games.) There's more to the equation too.

"It's consistency and plate discipline more than anything," Wade said. "He's going to grow into a little bit of power with the body he's got, but it's really just a case of getting professional at-bats."

Mier, 20, is more heralded for defense and intangibles. But suddenly there's some competition in the ranks of what had been a very thin system up the middle, most notably in Jonathan Villar, whom the Astros acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade last year. Upon Villar's acquisition, he jumped Mier, starting his tenure in high Class A Lancaster while Mier remained in Lexington.

SPACE SHOTS

• Reigning South Atlantic League MVP J.D. Martinez's first Grapefruit League got off to a rough start when he missed several days with a strained quad.

Koby Clemens homered in the Astros' annual intrasquad game for the second straight year, taking official MVP honors in the game a year after doing so unofficially.