Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 3/13/12
Livan Hernandez pitched five scoreless innings and allowed 5 hits in his outing against the Phillies Tuesday. "I threw the ball down today," said Hernandez. "Everything is going the way I want and I feel better and better every time I go on the mound." Former Astro Hunter Pence was back in Kissimmee Tuesday as the Phillies made a visit to Osceola County Stadium. Pence was traded last July to the Phillies for prospects but he admitted that the drive to the Astros' complex was a bit nostalgic. But Pence was able to experience the playoffs last season with the Phillies and this season he's expected to be a key contributor on a contending team. The playoffs are a different emotion," said Pence. "But you still have to be able to control it. It's like being called up to play in your first big leaguer gameit's a birth of a new experience. I don't know what you can really take from it other than it's the same game at all times. "I'm very grateful to be a Philly," he continued. "We have a great group but we have a lot of work to do." Speaking of visitors to Kissimmee, Michael Weiner, the head of the players' association, was in town for the players' annual union meeting. Afterwards Weiner addressed the new, one-game playoff format for Wild card teams which the union signed off on as part of its negotiations on a new labor deal. Weiner said there was a clear consensus among the players that a one-game format was a fair way to go. "The most important reason wasyou (now) don't really have an excuse if you don't come in first," said Weiner. "If you won however many games you won and you came in second, you're sort of privileged to even have a chance to continue to play. The players were focused on making winning the division that much more valuable." The new format certainly puts a big premium on winning the division. After a 162 game season, despite qualifying for the post season, a Wild Card team could be gone in just one game. The Astros made the first cuts of the spring. More specifically, six players were sent to minor league camp. None of the players was expected to make the big-league club this spring: RHP's Jorge De Leon and Arcenio Leon were optioned to Double A Corpus Christi...RHP Henry Villar, IF's Delino DeShields and Jonathan Villar and OF George Springer were reassigned to minor league camp. One of General Manager Jeff Luhnow's points of emphasis this spring is winning even exhibition games. The idea is to teach a young team that competitiveness in every aspect is important, whether to win a job or a game. It's a different approach than that of a veteran club which is expected to contend for the World Series. "I think that's true," said Luhnow. "Clubs that have a lot of veterans, that's exactly what they're trying to domake sure everybody stays healthy and gets their timing right." The Astros' situation is obviously different.
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