Day 6: Arnsberg stressing keeping the ball down

New Astros pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has been vocal in stressing to his pitchers to pound the lower half of the strike zone. He wants the pitchers to begin down and work their way up the zone.

“When you’re up and trying to get the ball down, it can lead to real long days,” he said. “It’s a little bit further from the eyesight of a hitter and they get the top half of the ball and it’s a little bit tougher to get to the middle half of the ball.

“It’s easier to get over the top of the bat where they’re getting the bottom half of the ball, so pop-ups and grounds are the key to winning. Just because you’re not a ground ball pitcher doesn’t mean you can’t make a living in the big leagues as long as you stay in those low-thigh to beltline areas.”

Arnsberg’s philosophy is to make hitters swing. He says they’re coming to the plate wanting to put the bat on the ball, and if a pitcher can make them chase a ball down in the zone early in the count, he’s going to have the advantage.

“We want to continue to be aggressive,” he said.

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Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella became the latest player to have his contract renewed, agreeing to the minimum of $400,000. The club still has to set salary figures for Bud Norris, Edwin Maysonet and Wesley Wright.

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Astros manager Brad Mills revealed the first three starting pitchers for the Grapefruit League season, which begins Thursday against Washington in Kissimmee, Fla.

Right-hander Brett Myers will start the opener Thursday, followed by left-hander Wandy Rodriguez against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., and Roy Oswalt on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves in Kissimmee. Houston will use six starters this spring, with Bud Norris, Brian Moehler and Felipe Paulino getting the other starts.

“We’re going to have some guys piggyback and switch back and forth as we go along,” Mills said. “That’s where we are right now the first three days.”

The Astros will play an intrasquad game Wednesday and will use 14 pitchers – seven pitchers on each team throwing one inning. Third base-coach Dave Clark will manage one side against first-base coach Bobby Meacham.

Mills said he will be able to get other pitchers – Wesley Wright, Yorman Bazardo, for example — some starts because of the three split-squad games the club has and a “B” squad game on Thursday. Paulino will throw in a “B” game Friday in Lakeland.

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The Astros welcomed 37 players Friday to a weeklong Minor League mini camp that will include some of the bigger prospects in the system, including pitchers Ross Seaton, Jordan Lyles, Jay Austin, Jon Gaston, Collin Delome Jiovanni Mier and Brad Dydalewicz.

LHPs (6) – Douglas Arguello, Brad Dydalewicz, Dallas Keuchel, Ross Seaton, Jon Switzer, Patrick Urckfitz.

RHPs (10) – Tanner Bushue, Matt Ginter, Kyle Godfrey, Kyle Greenwalt, Chris Hicks, Jordan Lyles, Dan Meszaros, Juan Minaya, Sergio Perez, Brandt Walker.

Catchers (4) – Luis Alvarez, Rene Garcia, Frederico Hernandez, David Williams.

IFs (8) – Jose Altuve, Erik Castro, Koby Clemens, Phil Disher, Enrique Hernandez, Jonathan Meyer, Jiovanni Mier, Brandon Wikoff.

OFs (9) – Jay Austin, David Cook, Collin Delome, Jonathan Gaston, Andrew Locke, J.D. Martinez, Telvin Nash, J.B. Shuck, T.J. Steele.

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