Day 6: Batters brave cold temps, hot pitchers
On a day winter returned to Central Florida as cold temperatures and brisk winds forced everyone to bundle up, Astros pitchers faced live batters for the first time. Some of the hitters, many of whom were facing pitchers for the first time since last season, chose not to swing.
Lance Berkman stood in against Roy Oswalt and joked with the ace: “You can go ahead and move that screen [in front of the pitcher's mound].” Berkman, wearing a thick Astros jacket at the plate, chose to keep the bat on his shoulder. But he wasn’t alone.
“Also on a day like this it’s so cold you start taking some swings and you’re going to have some bees in the handles, but I thought everything went well,” manager Brad Mills said. “I thought it was good to see the pitchers get through their routine and get their work in.”
One person who did swing away was Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, who belted a home run into the player parking lot and onto the windshield of Hunter Pence‘s GMC Denali. The ball smashed the top left portion of the windshield, forcing Pence to scurry to get it fixed.
In all 14 pitchers threw live batting practice Thursday: right-handers Roy Oswalt, Matt Lindstrom, Jeff Fulchino, Shane Loux, Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, Yorman Bazardo, Henry Villar, and Evan Englebrook and left-handers Wandy Rodriguez, Tim Byrdak, Wesley Wright, Fernando Abad and Polin Trinidad.
“The conditions aren’t what you expected, but it’s good to get back in the swing of things,” said outfielder Cory Sullivan, who faced Myers and Lopez. “They’re anxious to get the opportunity to throw to hitters and we’re anxious to see some pitchers. It’s a tough scenario, but you get used to it. Every year you’re still uncomfortable, so you’re not used to it.
“Your timing is a little bit off. It’s tough when you’re timing is not on. It’s always good to get in a few track pitchers at that pace and that situation.”
Nothing new to report on the injury front. Right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who aggravated his sore right ankle on Wednesday while covering first base during a drill, threw live batting practice Thursday without incident. Fulchino said covering first base is difficult on his ankle.
Right-hander Brandon Lyon, who had a small cyst drained in his should last month, threw for 12 minutes off flat ground without any problems. Manager Brad Mills said Lyon wouldn’t get on a mound until the middle of next week or late next week.
Astros manager Brad Mills, always on the move, threw batting practice to one round of hitters Thursday and field ground balls at first base during another drill. After a series of throws from strong-armed shortstop Tommy Manzella, Mills had enough.
“That ball’s got good carry,” he said. “The last one about tore up my hand. It hurt. It was freezing out there, so I said I’m not going to take his throws anymore.”