Day 14: Pitchers take their lumps against Tigers

Yes, the Astros were hammered 17-7 by the Tigers on Friday, but was not necessarily a bad thing. Consider this: Detroit was all over the bases and was hitting balls into all corners of the ballpark, which gave the Astros plenty of chances to work on hitting the cut-off man, throwing to the correct bases and those kinds of things.

These games mean nothing as far as wins and losses, so the Astros got in a good 3 1/2-hour defense lesson. That doesn’t mean that manager Brad Mills doesn’t want to see his pitchers tighten things up a bit. The Astros gave up 16 hits and walked 11 batters. That was ugly.

Here’s what stood out Friday:

The good: The Astros continue to swing the bats. Playing without Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Pedro Feliz, the Astros had 14 hits, including eight doubles.  Chris Johnson went 3-for-4 with three doubles to raise his average to .667 in the early going. He also made a nice few defensive plays at third base, though he did make one error.

“It definitely helps with the confidence trying to get ready for the season and getting good pitches to hit and you put good swings on them and hopefully they find a hole,” Johnson said. “And they have been lately, so that’s good. I had a couple of [ground] balls today that were tough to simulate in practice.”

Jason Michaels continues to rake, going 1-for-2 with two runs and a double. He’s hitting .800 this year. Yordany Ramirez also had another hit and, if I remember correctly, he had at least one hit in the “B” game, too. There were not stats available for that game.

The bad: Look, it’s still way too early to overanalyze the pitching. All of the guys who pitched Friday were on the mound for the first time in a spring game this year, and Evan Englebrook was working his first Major League spring game in his career.

Wandy Rodriguez was a little wild, but he has a long way to go. He’ll be fine. Now, guys like Gustavo Chacin and Yorman Bazardo are competing for jobs and need results. Chacin was the victim of some poor defense, but still gave up two hits and one walk. Bazardo allowed three runs and two hits, and left-handed prospect Polin Trinidad was terribly wild. He faced six batters and walked four of them and let two get on with base hits. All six scored. Yikes.

There were a couple of more errors on defense, so that needs to be tightened. Brian Bogusevic struggled in right field and misplayed a pair of fly balls, but you have to take into consideration the conditions. It was very bright and very windy, and the Tigers even had trouble in the outfield. But like the pitchers trying to win a spot, those are plays Bogusevic needs to make.

What they said: “In a lot of ways, I was happier today with a lot of things that happened. The score right now doesn’t concern me as much as how we need to go about playing the game. We had some real solid at-bats today in this game, which is good. We did yesterday, but what I mean by solid at-bats is we worked the counts a little bit better today and yesterday we just crushed the ball. Defensively, we hit the cut-off man and were able to work on some things and get it done. In many resects, we were very happy with the way things went.” - Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: The Astros return to Osceola County Stadium on Saturday to face the Braves. For the first time, Mills should be able to fill out the kind of lineup card we might see on Opening Day, though he’s probably going to use a designated hitter. Roy Oswalt starts, and Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are scheduled to make their first starts in the field.

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