Monday morning Astros update

We’re coming to you today from Bradenton, Fla., for the Astros’ second-to-last Grapefruit League road game and final long bus trip of the spring. Heavy rains pounded Florida throughout the night, and the McKechnie Field playing surface is very wet. In fact, workers have been trying to drain large pools of water on the warning track for more than an hour.

The Astros play in Kissimmee on Tuesday and Thursday and are at the nearby Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, so manager Brad Mills will have all his healthy players available to fill out his lineup. It will be interesting to see some of the lineup combinations, considering we’re only a week away from the regular season starting.

Here’s what Mills had to say when asked how much his starters will play in the final few spring games:

“They’re going to be playing quite a bit now coming down the last couple of days. Hunter [Pence] has had two nine-inning stints back to back, and Carlos [Lee] had his four at-bat stint a couple of days ago. We’re getting there. Kaz [Matsui] has played an awful lot, and that’s why he’s taking the last two days [Sunday and Monday off].”

When it comes to relief pitchers, Mills doesn’t yet expect to worry too much about putting them in game situations similar to what they would be in during the regular season.

“Maybe a little bit, but I think we’re more worried about getting our starting pitchers some time more than that,” he said. “We’ll definitely think about those things on Friday and Saturday, without a doubt.”

Here are the morning news nuggets:

  • SS Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) and Jason Bourgeios (strained hamstring) were scheduled to get some at-bats in a Minor League game at the complex today, but those games were rained out and they hit in the cage instead. Mills said he’d like to get Manzella and Bourgeois into a Minor League game before putting into a Grapefruit League game:  “Before we throw them into something like that, we have to get them in a game atmosphere. If anybody, [the rainout] probably pushes Bourgeois back a little bit. We’d like to at least see him get some more at-bats and see him a little bit more.”
  • C J.R. Towles was scheduled to play in a Minor League game today to test his ailing hamstring, but wound up traveling with the team to Bradenton so he could get some action. Mills said the hamstring is “probably not where we need to be… but at the same time we need to get him behind the plate and seeing pitches and swinging the bat.”
  • 1B Lance Berkman, who had minor knee surgery March 13, is scheduled to take batting practice for the second consecutive day Monday. Mills said he didn’t get a chance to talk to Berkman before the team bus left the complex in Kissimmee for Bradenton, but the fact he’s taking batting practice for the second day in a row is a sign he’s progressing.
  • RHPs Alberto Arias (right rotator cuff impingement) and Yorman Bazardo (right shoulder strain) will continue with their respective throwing programs, which consists of throwing off flat ground at this stage.

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