Posted Online: April 07, 2013, 6:36 pm

Astros looking to build from within

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By Daniel Makarewicz,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
The Quad Cities River Bandits are a big part of the rebuilding of the Houston Astros' organization. The Bandits have several key members of the core of players that has Houston's minor-league organization rated No. 9 in baseball.
Baseball pundits predict the Houston Astros could challenge the major-league record for losses in a 162-game season, with 120 by the New York Mets in 1962 the standard.

However, the Detroit Tigers set the 162-game American League record with 119 defeats a decade in 2003. Three years later, Motown went from laughingstock to the American League pennant.

The worst-to-first blueprint is a well-established one, offering MLB teams hope they can rebuild somewhat swiftly. In the last decade, Detroit, Cincinnati, Oakland and Tampa Bay epitomize the theory by using a build-from-within mentality coupled with educated free-agent signings to turn into contenders.

An aging roster and depleted farm system put Houston in a similar situation, but the organization is committed to rebuilding from within.

Those who follow the Quad Cities River Bandits this season should notice the Astros' philosophy.

The past proves it works. So the Bandits are embracing the approach their parent club is taking.

"Everyone is committed to push this organization," Bandits manager Omar Lopez said. "It's got to be like that. And it's coming from the top to the bottom."

One year removed from being rated 26th in Baseball America's organizational talent rankings, the Astros entered the season at No. 9. The ascension was spurred by a successful draft that restocked its farm system.

A willingness to develop a minor-league corps means every position throughout the organization is available. Competition for those spots is created, something Lopez said defines the Bandits' roster.

"They hate losing and hate failing," Lopez said. "They're going to compete."

Being in this organization spurred the mindset.

"It makes us strive to be better because of the spots open with the Astros," Bandits designated hitter Chase Davidson said. "Our minor-league system is so good that you've got to play well -- you've got to keep up with the guys in front of you. It's a great organization to be in right now."

Everyone appears to be part of the process.

"That motivates you to focus and dig into what you're trying to do and accomplish," Bandits third baseman Rio Ruiz said.

Lopez hopes this group accomplishes more than just what appears in a boxscore. Promotions are based on performance, but there are things that can help expedite the rebuilding process. What Lopez calls the "make-up" of a player is something that can help this season.

Besides talent, these players need to go about their business in a professional manner and be responsible. All that can create a winning attitude.

"You don't need the best talent to win games or the best talent to help the club win," Lopez said. "What you need to do is do everything the right way and be a good man. That's what we're going to emphasize. We have talent. When you have talent, you've got to identify and take the best out of them to play the game."

As spring training broke and the Bandits start their season, they understand what it takes to get this thing done.

"Everybody's on the same page," Bandits pitcher Colton Cain said. "We're here to win and play hard all the time."

During a rebuilding phase, that's what the organization wants to hear.The foundation appears set for the Astros to return to prominence.The Bandits are part of the process, adding intrigue to the season.

Seven weeks into the season, the club has the right mentality instilled at all levels.

"This organization is great, and you saw that in spring training," Ruiz said. "This organization is going to surprise a lot of people."

Bandits extra bases

Bandits this week: at Burlington (today-Wednesday); vs. Peoria (Thursday-Sunday)
Bandits news and notes: Through four games this season, the Bandits have used four different batting lineups. However, a sore right foot necessitated designated hitter Chase Davidson being out of the lineup two days and back-up catcher Jobduan Morales got the start on Sunday. All 13 position players already have gotten a start. "I've got to rotate a couple guys every certain day," Bandits manager Omar Lopez said. "There aren't many back-up guys, but I'm going to rotate them to keep them fresh." ... With temperatures possibly reaching the 40s for the home opener on Thursday against Peoria, the Bandits are experiencing quite the weather contrast from what they had in spring training. Lopez, though, said there will be no excuses. He said the players were given 48 hours from arriving in the Quad-Cities to discuss the cold temperatures. After that, they cannot talk about them. "The weather is going to be like this, and we don't know for how long," Lopez said. "We've got to go forward." ... The Bandits scored the first run in all four games at Kane County. ... With the back-end of the "piggyback" system starting today, starting pitchers for the Burlington series will be Joe Bircher, Daniel Minor and Mike Hauschild in that order. Jordan Jankowski is scheduled to start the home opener.
QC alumni: Making his second career start on Saturday, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller earned the win over the defending world champion San Francisco Giants. Miller struck out four and walk four, but allowed two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. The former first-round pick pitched for the Bandits in 2009 and 2010
FYI: Colin Walsh broke up a combined no-hitter attempt by the Charlotte Stone Crabs with a ninth-inning run-scoring triple on Saturday night. Walsh, who played last season with the Bandits, is a second baseman for the high-A Palm Beach Cardinals.
Around the Midwest League: Playing as a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate for the first time in nine seasons, the Peoria Chiefs drew 4,322 fans to their season opener on Thursday. It was the Chiefs' largest home-opening crowd since 1988. ... Home teams went 3-5 in season openers. ... Cedar Rapids outfield Byron Buxton has eight hits in his first 15 at-bats. Buxton was selected second overall in last June's draft. ...