Mark Loretta joined Milo Hamilton at the ESPN Club at Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando for the latest edition of Astroline. After the introduction, Milo asked Loretta how he felt being at Spring Training with the Astros. Loretta said he was highly impressed when he found out his locker was nestled between Craig Biggio’s and Brad Ausmus’ lockers–that locker once belonged to Jeff Bagwell.
When asked what made him choose Houston over other clubs where he could’ve been a starting second baseman, Mark said the Astros players and organization made a huge impression on him during the one month he spent as an Astro in 2002. He wanted to come to Houston and honestly believes this year’s Astros team can win the World Series.
Loretta talked a bit about the game that day against the Braves, stating that Jennings looked sharp and Burke and Berkman both hitting home runs was a sign of things to come. He then talked about his years with the Padres and last year with the Red Sox. The Boston fans in the audience cheered at that and Loretta complimented them for being some of the most loyal fans in all of baseball.
A member of the audience asked Mark if he uses the same glove for all infield positions or if he likes to have different gloves. Loretta said he uses the same glove when he plays short stop and second base, but uses one with longer fingers for third base and of course, first base needs its own glove. He went on to say that when he came up in the Milwaukee Brewers system, Phil Garner had him playing a lot of different positions so he was used to it. He also said playing three or four different positions in one game doesn’t really bother him as long as he can concentrate on the fundamentals of fielding the position he’s at.
A fan from Houston asked him if he thought he could fill Bagwell’s shoes and what his favorite fielding position was. Loretta graciously replied that no one can fill Jeff Bagwell’s shoes. As for his favorite position, he was originally a short stop and that is his favorite, but he feels most comfortable at second base as he has played there for the past five years.
Asked about his thoughts on the state of the Astros pitching, Mark said that right at this moment, the starting rotation isn’t as good as it was in June 2006, but it is still very solid with Oswalt, Jennings and Williams. This of course brought up the inevitable question of Roger Clemens and where he might possibly play in 2007.
Loretta deferred to Milo Hamilton for this question–Milo said he’s been to quite a few functions this off season with Clemens and although Roger hasn’t told him anything new, he believes Clemens will either retire or pitch for the Astros in May or June. Milo’s reasoning is that Andy Pettitte took a huge public relations hit when he first told the Astros that he wasn’t sure if he would play or retire in 2007 and then promptly decided to take a 2 year contract with the Yankees. Clemens has seen what the effect of that PR blunder has been for Pettitte in Houston and he is too savvy a businessman to make such a mis-step–he has too many business and charity interests in Houston to be able to afford such a hit to his popularity. There will no Rocket re-launch in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in 2007.
Another question for Loretta was if he preferred to see 12 pitchers or an extra position player. Mark said he personally liked having an extra position player especially in the beginning of the season, but, with the 4th and 5th rotation spot still undecided, he could see the need to carry 12 pitchers. He added that it was his belief that Eric Bruntlett would most likely make the club, making the Astros bench one of the best and deepest in their history.