HOU@CLE: Carter puts Astros up early with solo homer

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter is confident slugger Chris Carter, who struck out a franchise-record 212 times in 2013, will be able to reduce his whiff rate next year. Porter said another year of experience should help Carter.

Carter played in a career-high 148 games last year, hitting 29 homers and driving in 82. It was the most games he had played in a season after appearing in 67 with Oakland in 2012.

"You look at his Major League career, even the at‑bats which he received, they were platoon at‑bats and facing lefties," Porter said. "Well, what happens in that scenario is you take away the aspect that he's now facing righties and the mental strain that comes with the days in which he goes 0‑for-4 with three strikeouts against a righty. Then the next day he faces a lefty in which you're saying to yourself, 'OK, this is the guy he's really going to do good against.'

"But the mental strain that that has on you basically affects a guy that you probably should hit well. I think that mental maturity is going to help Chris Carter, the fact that he's coming into his second year where he's going to play every day. "

The Astros traded for Carter in February because they needed to add some power, even if it came at the expense of strikeouts. No one imagined Carter would strike out quite that much, and his future as a viable Major League player could depend on making more contact.

"This was not a one-year tryout for Chris Carter," Porter said. "We feel like if we really hit it on this guy, we have a guy that's going to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 every year. And taking him out of the lineup last year would not bode well for what it is we believe the steps he's going to take next year.

"So giving him that entire year, I guess to answer your question, I believe he's going to be a stronger player from a mental standpoint and that is going to cut down on strikeouts."

Luhnow, Porter support move to eliminate collisions

Must C Collision: Castro hangs on at the plate

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to eliminate home-plate collisions between runners and catchers in a move that was applauded by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter.

The exact language of the rule has not been written and it will still have to be approved by both MLB owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"The players are our No. 1 commodity, and we want to do everything we can to keep them healthy," Porter said. "As long as whatever rules we're going to put in place are going to be put in place obviously to protect the players, I am all for any ruling that's going to protect the player."

Luhnow said player safety should come first, as well.

"Any time we're watching out for the safety of the players, that's in the best interest of the game," he said. "Nobody wants to see the catcher get hurt. And so I think those efforts are to be applauded."

Former Astro Ausmus credits Dierker for new job

Tigers' new skipper Brad Ausmus on MLB Tonight

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who played 10 of his 18 big league seasons with the Astros and has caught more games than anyone in club history, said his path to becoming manager deserves an assist from former Houston skipper Larry Dierker.

Dierker managed the Astros from 1997-2001, winning four division titles in his five years at the helm. Ausmus played for the Astros for much of that stretch, with the exception of a two-year stint with the Tigers in 1999-2000.

"Looking back, I played for Larry Dierker in Houston for three years, and I was a young player," he said. "And he actually handed me the reins as a catcher. It was my fourth year in big leagues, and he handed me the reins to control the running game, the first and thirds [throws]. I would call whether we threw to second or pump faked, and at the time I thought he was throwing a lot on my plate. I was only 28 years old."

Now, as he looks back as a 44-year-old first-time manager, Ausmus said he learned a lot about the game as a result.

"It was fortunate for me," he said. "A lot of catchers don't get that option at 28, they don't get that opportunity. Larry Dierker has had an impact."

Worth noting

• Porter laid out the top three hitters in his lineup for 2014, saying newly acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler would lead off, second baseman Jose Altuve would bat second and catcher Jason Castro would bat third.