Day 33 recap: Daigle, Lindstrom impressive in loss

Day 2 of the Astros’ three-day marathon road trip took them to Port St. Lucie to meet the New York Mets. For the second day in a row, the Astros had a handful of Minor League players suit up, though Cory Sullivan, Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum were among the “regulars” who were in the lineup.

Facing left-hander Johan Santana for the second time this spring, Houston lost 5-2 to drop its Grapefruit League record to 11-9. There was plenty of good and plenty of bad in this one, so without further adieu, here’s the breakdown:

The good: Let’s start with pitching. Right-hander Casey Daigle, whom I really not have given much shot at all of making the team, threw four terrific innings in a spot start. He gave up three hits and one run and struck out four against no walks. After the game, manager Brad Mills said Daigle is in the mix for a bullpen spot, and his 0.87 ERA this spring would justify that.

Matt Lindstrom, who has been flat-out unhittable since changing the grip on his slider following his first outing, threw a 1-2-3 fifth inning, and Wesley Wright also had a scoreless inning in relief and struck out two batters.

The Astros reached double-digit hits once again with Jeff Keppinger, playing shortstop, going 2-for-4 and third baseman Chris Johnson going 2-for-4 with his team-high fourth homer of the spring, a blast off Santana that cleared the left-center-field wall in the fourth.

The bad: The Astros booted the ball around a little bit  and made three errors, two of which were made by players from Minor League camp: second baseman Matt Kata threw a ball away trying to turn a double play, and first baseman Mark Ori dropped a pop-up in foul territory. Johnson was also charged with an error at third base, but the ball took a bad hop.

“It always worries me,” Mills said of the errors. “If they have Astros on the front [of the uniform], you never like to see it. The one that I’m concerned with is the double play. I wish Matt would have just held the ball. You don’t have to try to turn that.”

Left-hander Tim Byrdak and right-hander Jeff Fulchino each gave up two runs in one inning, but both of Fulchino’s were unearned. Byrdak gave up a two-run homer to Daniel Murphy in the sixth inning. Geoff Blum grounded into two double plays, and the Mets stole two bases on catcher Jason Castro.

What they said: “He’s really made some adjustments, and how great is it to have a guy like that who’s going to make some adjustments so quickly? He’s thrown the ball really well. When a guy’s throwing the ball like that and able to do that, it’s nice to see him in whatever role.” – Mills on right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who threw a scoreless inning Wednesday to keep his ERA at 0.00 in six spring games.

What’s next: Another long road trip will take the Astros to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Astros right-hander Brett Myers will make his first appearance against his former team when he starts against the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick.

Astro-notes: Mills gave a quick injury update following Wednesday’s game, saying shortstop Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps), first baseman Lance Berkman (knee surgery) and center fielder Michael Bourn (strained oblique) were progressing. Mills said there was a chance Bourn could return to the lineup by Friday. … Mills said he plans to have most of his roster set by the time the Astros pack up to leave Florida in eight days: “I think everything will be pretty much set. Thee might be one question maybe. I don’t want to talk about that right now, but there might be one question. But we’ll see what it is. We’d like to have as much set as we could for those guys out there, so they can start getting ready for the season as well.”

1 Comment

Nice article. Brian, I’m wondering who you think is going to win the closer’s job.

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