Nats welcome old friend Porter back to spring home

VIERA, Fla. -- Bo Porter returned to Viera on Tuesday with hugs for former players, and a fresh perspective on his new club.

Porter, who was the Nationals' third-base coach for two seasons before leaving to become the Astros' manager after last season, made the trip back to Space Coast Stadium as his Astros faced the Nationals in Grapefruit League play.

"It's great," Porter said. "I have a lot of friends over there. A lot of friends, a lot of great relationships. It's not like we're being reunited, because we keep in contact constantly throughout the offseason and even leading up to today. But it's good to be back, to see a lot of these guys. They've got a good thing going on. It's a good ballclub, and they've got a chance to do something special."

If the Astros, who lost 107 games and are now moving to the more difficult American League West, are rebuilding, Porter refuses to acknowledge it. He was asked about the mindset in the clubhouse, and how he relates that message to his players, and didn't flinch.

"I didn't even know that word was in the dictionary," Porter said of the rebuilding term. "I haven't used that word, not one time, since Sept. 27 last year. And I'm not planning on using it."

Porter returns home to Texas -- he's lived in Houston for some time, and played his last Major League games with the Rangers -- with a fresh attitude for a club that desperately needs a facelift. But he still has plenty of connections in Washington, including more than 20 players who participate in his email book group that now totals more than 700 participants.

The group includes Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond, and Porter says the group reads and discusses spiritual literature, including Tony Dungy's "Uncommon Life" last year.

And he still has a friend in Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who has kept in contact with Porter since the offseason. Since Porter's Astros are leaving for the American League, the two can talk about roster moves, what's happening in camp and any other issues that may arise.

"When you have someone of Davey's accomplishments and he's readily available to help you, I would be foolish not to take advantage of that," Porter said.

Said Johnson: "He's the perfect man for the job. I know that he's a big loss here, but I think he's fully prepared to be an outstanding manager in the Major Leagues, in a rebuilding program, obviously. He's very fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game, and he's a great judge of talent. So I look for him to be there a long time. So it's great, I told him, you can be in your hometown. It doesn't get any better than that. I wish him nothing but the best."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.