Sean Stackhouse / WEBN-TV

By Brian Danuff 3/7/2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla – Before A.J. Hinch, the last Houston Astros manager to lead the team to October glory was Phil Garner.

Garner, whose 2005 Astros won the National League pennant, is back in camp as a special instructor. The former skipper was also an All-Star infielder for 16 seasons in the Major Leagues, 7 of which were spent in Houston.

The Astros lost the 2005 World Series to the Chicago White Sox, but vanquished those demons by winning their first ever championship last season in a thrilling seven-game Fall Classic over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Garner, now 68, was thrilled to see his former team finally win it all.

“It’s pretty exciting, these young players kind of enliven my baseball spirit again.” Garner said. “They’re all great guys, so it’s nice to have a championship trophy in Houston for the first time ever, and it’s good that it was a bunch of kids who were deserving.”

The Astros hope to become the first team this century to win back-to-back World Series, but their competition in the American League looks strong. The New York Yankees took the Astros to Game 7 of the ALCS, and acquired N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton over the winter. The Boston Red Sox retained their star-studded young core, and recently signed slugger J.D. Martinez. The rest of the A.L. will also have at least a puncher’s chance thanks to the new Wild Card format, which Garner likes.

“I hope it’s a good pennant race again, it’s always exciting when it gets down to the last month of the season and you have four or five teams with legitimate shots of getting in.”