KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Scott Feldman was signed this offseason to lead Houston Astros' the rotation and be a veteran presence for the team's young pitching staff.
That doesn't mean the 31-year-old is finished learning himself. He's just as excited as the youngsters are to work with pitching greats like Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan.
"I think that no matter how old you are you still see stuff and can learn every day," he said. "There are always new hitters coming up that you need to learn about and try to figure out how to pitch to these guys. You're never too old to learn stuff and I still feel like I'm pretty young."
He understands that he'll be expected to mentor other members of the pitching staff, but believes his new teammates will get far more value out of looking up to others.
"With Nolan Ryan coming in and Roger Clemens and some of these guys that have won 300 games and have like 5,000 strikeouts, those are guys that are more mentors than somebody like me," he said. "But I've definitely pitched more than some of these guys that are going to be in the rotation ... and if I can help in any way, I'm looking forward to it."
Doug Brocail, Houston's senior pitching advisor, has known Feldman since the two played together for the Rangers in 2005 when Feldman was a 22-year-old rookie and Brocail was 38.
Feldman looked up to Brocail back then, and Brocail believes Feldman has morphed into a valuable leader who will be a great influence on Houston's pitching staff.
"The nice thing about Scottie is that he was one of those guys that always progressed, he listened to coaches," Brocail said. "He's just filling the void. Especially here last year, we didn't have any veterans. Now that we have some veteran guys to help those young kids along, it makes a big difference."
Feldman's the ace of what is certain to be a new-look rotation after four players who made starts for Houston last year are gone. Houston traded Bud Norris, last year's opening-day starter, to Baltimore at the trade deadline, and also gone are Jordan Lyles, Philip Humber and Erik Bedard.
"If you watch Scott Feldman go about his business, he does it in such a professional manner that it's very easy for the next guy to look and follow this guy," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "He's one that if there is something that needs to be said he'll say it ... and he's not just going to say it, he's going to back it up with his actions."
Feldman, who is the first player since the Astros began their rebuilding process to get a big contract after signing a three-year, $30 million deal, loves the enthusiasm of this young team.
He spent the first eight years of his career with the Rangers, with his best season coming in 2009 when he went 17-8 and pitched a career-high 189 2-3 innings. After his time with the Rangers he split last season with the Chicago Cubs and Orioles, going 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA.
Feldman started 30 games and pitched more than 180 innings last year for the first time since his big season with Texas. This year he's looking to be on the mound even more.
"I hope I make all 32 or 33 starts and if I get to 200 innings I think that will be very beneficial to the team," he said.
He threw to hitters for the first time this spring on Friday and had pretty simple goals.
"Just wanted to get reacquainted with the mound and see hitters up there and try to throw all my pitches over the plate," he said.
And he wanted to make sure and stay on the good side of his new teammates with his last goal.
"And try not to hit anybody, that's probably the most important thing," he said. "I didn't hit anybody (Friday), so that was good."
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