March 2011

Game 18: Norris slowly gaining strength

The Astros’ split-squad team lost the Braves, 7-1, on Sunday afternoon in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The game was pretty uneventul for the Astros until the ninth inning, when Minor League outfielder Telvin Nash hit perhaps the longest homer in the history of Champion Stadium, sending a pitch over the giant scoreboard in left-center.

The Astros had a much better day against the Tigers in Lakeland, where J.R. Towles went 3-for-4 with his second homer of the spring in a 3-1 win. But since I was at Disney here’s the breakdown of the loss to the Braves:

What went right: Aneury Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino and Mark Melancon each threw one scoreless inning in relief, with Fulchino striking out a pair of batters. He has looked extremely sharp this spring and completely recovered from offseason elbow surgery. He’s likely pitched himself onto the Opening Day roster at this point.

Melancon gave up two hits and a walk, but escaped without allowing a run. The only hits the Astros managed were by Anderson Hernandez, Hunter Pence, Tommy Manzella and a mammoth home run by Minor League outfielder Telvin Nash.

What went wrong: The Astros were held to four hits in 31 at-bats and struck out 10 times against the Braves. Bud Norris started and allowed five hits, five runs and two walks in three innings, but Norris is still working on pitches and his outing shouldn’t be any kind of cause for alarm. The good news, Norris said, is he got his pitch count up and he felt fine.

Carlos Lee made a fielding error in left field, and Arcenio Leon was roughed up in one inning of work, allowing two hits and two runs and one home run.

What they said: “Just the biggest point right now is getting the pitch count up there, and I felt pretty good. The slider wasn’t where I wanted it to be today. The first home run it definitely hung up there and the guy made a good swing on it, so I’m still working on stuff. All in all, I was worried about getting my pitch count up there.” – pitcher Bud Norris, who gave up home runs to Wilkin Ramirez in the second and Chipper Jones in the third inning Sunday.

What’s next: The race for the fifth spot in the rotation heats up when Nelson Figueroa takes the mound for the Astros against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies, at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium. Figueroa has won both is his previous Grapefruit League starts, allowing one earned run in five innings. Reliever Wilton Lopez, who has four perfect one-inning outings under his belt this spring, is also scheduled to pitch for Houston.

Injury update: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has come down with mild tendinitis in his left shoulder and will be skipped Tuesday as a precaution. … Astros general manager Ed Wade said he was pleased with how right-hander Alberto Arias, who’s throwing on flat ground, and infielder Jeff Keppinger, who’s coming off foot surgery eight weeks ago, are progressing from their injuries. 

Here are the pictures:

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Above: Astros players stretch prior to Sunday’s game against the Braves.

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Above: The Astros had been using the designated hitter all spring, but Bud Norris became the first pitcher to hit in a game. He struck out in his only at-bat against the Braves.

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Above: Brandon Lyon is interviewed by MLB Network prior to the game.

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Above: Carlos Lee plays catch on the field prior to Sunday’s game.

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Above: Koby Clemens makes contact during batting practice.

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Above: Hunter Pence is never shy about signing autographs for Astros fans.

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Above: Michael Bourn grabs a bat and emerges from the dugout for Sunday BP.

Game 14: Good performances abound in walk-off win

The Astros rallied for a run in the ninth-inning for a walk-off win over the Nationals, 6-5, on Thursday night at Osceola County Stadium. Bryce Harper, the top pick in the draft last year, made an errant throw from right field to allow the winning run to cross the plate.

Tied at 5 in the ninth with Jimmy Paredes on first base, Brian Dopirak sent a laser into the right field corner. Paredes was originally given the stop sign at third base, but Harper’s poor throw allowed him to score the winning run.

What went right: There were solid pitching performances up and down the boxscore, beginning with starter Wandy Rodriguez. The left-hander was pretty good in his third start of the spring, allowing four hits and one run in four innings. He threw 71 pitches (25 in the first inning) and retired eight of the final nine batters he faced.

Brandon Lyon threw a crisp 1-2-3 inning and benefitted from a terrific diving stop by second baseman Bill Hall, and Jeff Fulchino allowed a lead-off hit in the sixth, but quickly got a double play and finished the inning in quick fashion. Ross Wolf and Sergio Escalona also pitched scoreless innings and struck out one batter.

At the plate, the Astros had 13 hits, with Jason Bourgeois (2-for-4) and Chris Johnson (2-for-3) leading the charge. Johnson ripped a two-run single in the third inning and is now hitting .304. Matt Downs continues to make a push to make the club, going 1-for-3 with an RBI double while starting at first base. Tommy Manzella had two plate appearances and put down a sacrifice bunt and drew a walk to start out the ninth.

What went wrong: Wesley Wright had a rough night on the mound, allowing three hits, two walks and four runs in one inning, raising his ERA to 13.50. Hunter Pence finally cooled down and went 0-for-4, but no one is worried about him.

There wasn’t much else manager Brad Mills could feel badly about. The Astros squandered a bases-loaded situation in the first inning when Bill Hall hit into a double play, but Hall came back with a double in the third. 

What’s they said: “Last year, I got hurt and didn’t get to finish up the season, and then Houston came in and to be part of this team and organization, it’s a great feeling alone by itself. My first at-bat [in the seventh], I came up looking to drive the ball and missed that pitch and got a little under it [and popped out]. I tried to make the adjustment to my next at-bat and stayed through it a little bit longer and was looking for a pitch up in the zone and jumped on it. I felt good. My swing’s been feeling pretty good. It felt good to help the team win and come up in that situation and do that.” — Astros outfielder Brian Dopirak on his ninth-inning heroics. 

What’s next: Manager Brad Mills and his coaching staff will have the opportunity to watch two games on Friday, with the Astros playing a split-squad game against the Red Sox in Kissimmee in the afternoon and playing another game against the Nationals in Viera at night. This will be the Astros’ fourth split-squad date of the spring. Brett Myers will start against the Red Sox and is scheduled to throw about 75 pitches, and Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton will start against the Nationals.

Injury update: Outfielder Jason Michaels, who was scratched from Tuesday’s game in Fort Myers due to back spasms, has made progress and returned to the lineup Thursday at designated hitter. … Right-hander Alberto Arias played catch on Thursday and said his shoulder felt fine. He will throw from 90 feet on Friday and take Saturday off as he continues to battle back from inflammation and tries to get into a game for the first time this spring. … Right-hander Sammy Gervacio (shoulder) could begin throwing soon. … Right-hander Bud Norris, who left his start Monday with a mild hamstring strain, said he feels good and will start Sunday against the Braves.

Here are the pictures of the day:

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Above: Manager Brad Mills watches cut-offs and rundowns on Thursday.

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Above: Matt Downs reaches for a ball being thrown from the outfield.

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Above: Wilton Lopez concentrates while trying to make a play during rag ball drills.

 

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Above: Michael Bourn and bullpen coach Jamie Quirk give each other a fist bump during BP. They were probably agreeing on how great UH is going to be in football this year.

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Above: Bill Hall swings away in batting practice. I’m glad he didn’t foul it back into my face.

Taking a shot at the Astros 25-man roster

We are roughly halfway through Spring Training and the roster picture is pretty much as cloudy as it was when camp opened a month ago, and perhaps even more so with the injury to catcher Jason Castro. With so many bodies still in camp, it’s been difficult to determine which players might have the leg up, but that will not deter me.

Here’s my guess on what the Opening Day roster will look like:

CATCHERS (2)

Humberto Quintero

J.R. Towles

Comment: The Astros could still bring in another catcher in time for Opening Day, but for now I’m going to limit my prediction to the players that are still in camp.

INFIELDERS (6)

Brett Wallace (L)

Bill Hall

Clint Barmes

Chris Johnson

Matt Downs

Tommy Manzella

Comment: I still believe Wallace is going to win the first base job. Downs has looked good in camp and could bring some pop and versatility off the bench. Manzella has broadened his defensive scope and has looked good at the plate so far this spring. Angel Sanchez could still play his way into the mix, but his defense is an issue. Anderson Hernandez has played well, too.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Carlos Lee

Michael Bourn (L)

Hunter Pence

Jason Michaels

Brian Bogusevic (L)

Comment: The only spot up for grabs is the fifth outfield spot. Bogusevic probably has a leg up on Jason Bourgeois because he hits left-handed. He runs pretty well too, but not as well as Bourgeois, who could also play second base.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Brett Myers

Wandy Rodriguez (L)

J.A. Happ (L)

Bud Norris

Ryan Rowland-Smith (L)

Comment: The fifth spot in the rotation remains completely up for grabs. Right now, I go with Rowland-Smith over Jordan Lyles, who has looked good but is still 20 years old and has barely had his feet wet at Triple-A. Nelson Figueroa makes the club as the long reliever.

RELIEF PITCHERS (7)

Brandon Lyon

Wilton Lopez

Fernando Abad (L)

Jeff Fulchino

Nelson Figueroa

Mark Melancon

Henry Villar

Comment: At this point, I see Lyon, Lopez, Abad and Figueroa as locks. Fulchino is healthy and pitching well, and Melancon appears to have a good chance. The last spot? Completely up for grabs. The injury to Alberto Arias may give some other guys a chance, and Villar as pitched well. Don’t count out Sergio Escalona or Enerio Del Rosario.

Game 13: Lyles, Rowland-Smith take their turns

The Astros lost, 7-2, to the Mets on Wednesday afternoon in Port St. Lucie, where Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jordan Lyles each pitched three innings in their latest audition to win the fifth starter’s job. Both had mixed results.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Jordan Lyles pitched three innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs. Lyles was told to work on some of his breaking pitches during one of his innings, so that has to play into the results. Those are the things people have to remember during Spring Training. It’s a time for trial and error.

Lyles looked strong and poised and made some hitters look silly, striking out Jason Bay in the first inning specifically. Three of the hits he did give up weren’t hit hard. Two of them went over the head of the second baseman, and the third was a blooper that dropped in for two RBIs.

Rowland-Smith walked the lead-off hitter in all three innings he pitched, but all things considered didn’t pitch too poorly. Walking the lead-off hitter isn’t going to win him any points with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and manager Brad Mills.

Angel Sanchez went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .250, J.D. Martinez and Matt Downs both hit home runs. Downs is hitting .278 with two homers and four RBIs, which are both tied for the team lead through 13 Grapefruit League games.

Anderson Hernandez went 1-for-3 and is hitting .571 in limited action. He was slowed early in camp because of a back problem.

What went wrong: Fernando Abad, a candidate to be the lefty reliever, allowed two hits and two runs in one inning to raise his ERA to 13.50. Besides Sanchez and the homers hit by Downs and Martinez, the Astros had only two additional hits — Michael Bourn and Hernandez.

Brett Wallace went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .208 after a quick start at the plate.

What they said: “It seemed like the hitters weren’t seeing the ball real well off of him, especially early. He was trying to work on some off-speed stuff in the third inning, and I think that’s where they get some knocks as well off of him. The hits he did give up weren’t all that solid.” -- manager Brad Mills on pitcher Jordan Lyles.

What’s next: After two days of getting a better look at some of the candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation, the Astros will give the ball to left-hander Wandy Rodriguez against the Nationals for a rare Grapefruit League night game at Osceola County Stadium. He’s expected to work about four innings, and be followed by closer Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino, Mark Melancon, Jose Valdez and Wesley Wright.  

Injury update: Outfielder Jason Michaels, who was scratched from the lineup in Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers with back spasms, got treatment on the back Wednesday in Kissimmee and is expected to return to the lineup Thursday night. … Right-hander Bud Norris, who had his outing Monday against Washington cut short with a mild hamstring strain, threw off the mound Tuesday without complications. He’s expected to make his next start.

And now for the day in pictures:

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Above: Infielder Jiovanni Mier, the team’s first-round draft choice last year, chills in the dugout at Digital Domain Park prior to team stretch on Wednesday.

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Above: Astros players begin to stretch on the field at Digital Domain Field on Wednesday.

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Above: Players’ gloves lined up on the dugout railing.

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Above: Mets manager Terry Collins — former manager of the Astros — catches up with current Astros manager Brad Mills prior to Wednesday’s game.

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Above: Brad Mills watches as J.D. Martinez poses on the field for a picture.

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Above: View from the press box at Digital Domain Park, formerly Tradition Field.

Game 11: Crisp win over Mets

The Astros split a pair of games Tuesday afternoon, beating the New York Mets, 5-4, in Kissimmee, and losing, 3-2 , to the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers.

The race for the fifth starter’s spot was front and center Tuesday afternoon, with three of the five candidates for the job – Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton – all in action in two different games.

Figueroa started the split-squad game against the Mets, his former team, and gave up three hits and one run in one inning. He allowed the Mets to load the bases with one out in the first inning, but allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez started the Astros’ other split-squad game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers and gave up four hits and one walk in three scoreless innings. He was followed on the mound by Pendleton, who allowed two hits, two walks, one run and hit one batter in two innings.

Here’s the breakdown of the win over the Mets:

What went right: Plenty, beginning on the mound, where Figueroa, Mark Melancon, Wilton Lopez, Casey Fien and Sergio Escalona all pitched well.

The Astros banged out nine hits, including doubles by Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Clint Barmes and Oswaldo Navarro and a home run by J.R. Towles. It was Towles’ first home run of the spring.

“I just want to see the ball and put a good swing on it and I can’t do anything other than that,” said Towles, who went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .273. “That’s all I’m really looking to do.”

Barmes, having scrapped the leg kick he worked on all winter, went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .167, and Pence went 2-for-2 with a double and is hitting .524 this spring.

What went wrong: The only pitcher to get roughed up was Cesar Carrillo, who allowed two hits and two runs in one inning. Matt Downs and Brett Wallace, both of whom have had good springs, each went 0-for-3. The Astros were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

What they said: “When I first got to spring I was looking at some video and some pictures [of the 2007 and 2008 seasons], and my hands were lower than they had been [recently], so I just got my hands a little lower and am sitting back on that back leg a little bit and not going out to get it. I’m feeling good and seeing the ball well. I’ts working for me, so I don’t need to change anything right now.” – Astros catcher J.R. Towles.

What’s next: The Astros meet the Mets for the second day in a row, traveling to Port St. Lucie for Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. CT game. Ryan Rowland-Smith, one of five men competing for the fifth starter’s job, will make his second start and his third outing of the spring. He allowed three runs in his first spring start Friday against the Cardinals. Jordan Lyles, also battling for the final spot in the rotation, will follow Rowland-Smith.

Injury update: Jason Michaels, who was originally in the lineup in the outfield against the Red Sox, was scratched because of back spasms. … Bud Norris, who strained his hamstring on Monday, said Tuesday he felt fine.

Now to the photos:

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Above: Catcher J.R. Towles cover the plate during some drills early Tuesday.

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Above: That’s Telvin Nash, a burly outfielder brought over from Minor League camp to play in Tuesday’s game, taking a swing during batting practice.

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Above: Carlos Lee practices tagging up from third base.

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Above: Ryan Rowland-Smith practices fielding a ground ball during drills. Bud Norris awaits the throw at third base.

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Above: Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton convinces Hall of Fame guy Clint Barmes to be his guest on Astroline on Wednesday night. He said yes.

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Above: That’s former Astros pitcher Tim Byrdak, now trying to win a job with the Mets.

Game 10: Things get ugly late for Astros

The Astros blew their second large lead in as many days Monday, watching the Washington Nationals score nine runs in the eighth inning – when all of the regular players were out of the game – and rally for a 14-9 win over the Astros at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

The biggest news of the game came in the seventh inning when Bud Norris, who pitched in relief, had to leave with a mild right hamstring strain. Norris said after the game it was just a tweak and that he wasn’t too worried about it.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: The Astros had another big day at the plate, getting 15 hits one day after they had 17 hits against the Yankees. Among the starters, Michael Bourn, Clint Barmes and Brian Bogusevic were 1-for-4, and Chris Johnson was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer. Bourn homered to right field in the first at-bat of the game.

We’ll put J.A. Happ in the good category, even though he gave up three runs in the second inning.  All three runs were unearned – Johnson made a two-out error at third base in the inning – and he gave up three hits and two walks.  Norris threw two good innings before giving up a double and then leaving with a hamstring strain.

Happ looked terrific in striking out former teammate Jayson Werth with a 3-2 cutter in the first inning, but walked a pair of batters in the second, including one with the bases loaded. Happ said pitching with some traffic on the bases early in Spring Training isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I don’t want to get used to having to do that, but it is good,” he said. “It’s a good situational refresher how to pitch. It’s a little reminder that I rush myself when guys are on base sometimes, and I probably need to try to get ahead with the fastball a little bit more than I did today. All in all, I thought it went OK.”

Henry Villar pitched between Happ and Norris and threw two scoreless innings.

What went wrong: In addition to Johnson’s two-out error that helped the Nationals along in the second inning and the injury to Norris, relievers Patrick Urckfitz and Jorge De Leon combined to give up nine runs in the eighth. Urckfitz allowed four hits and five runs in 1 2/3 innings, and De Leon gave up five hits and four runs while getting just one out. Neither of these guys are going to make the club, but they need to take advantage of these situations.

What they said: “He was a little inconsistent and he’s going to have those, but he was able to come back to an extent. That inconsistency is something he’ll work through and there’s no reason to think he won’t.” - Astros manager Brad Mills said of J.A. Happ.

What’s next: It’s another split-squad date for the Astros, who will play the Mets at home in Kissimmee and the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Astros manager Brad Mills, who spent six years as the bench coach of the Red Sox, will travel to his old stomping grounds in Fort  Myers, where Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez will make his first start of the spring and will be followed by fellow Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton. Nelson Figueroa will start in Kissimmee against the Mets, his former team.

Injury update: Bud Norris left Monday’s game with a mild hamstring strain, but he’s expected to be fine. … Jason Michaels is expected to play left field on Tuesday in Boston. He hasn’t played in the outfield this season because of some arm discomfort.

And now to the pictures, which are a little on the light side today because the lighting in Viera played tricks with my fancy camera:

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Above: Hunter Pence stretches his legs before he hits on field Monday.

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Above: Brett Wallace stretches his legs on the field.

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Above: Michael Bourn does a promotional voiceover for MLB.com

Game 9: Teachable moments in loss to Yanks

On a day when the wind was blowing out at Osceola County Stadium, the Astros and Yankees combined for 18 runs and 38 hits. The Yankees did most of the damage, banging 21 hits – including home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Greg Golson – to beat the Astros and drop their Grapefruit League record to 2-7.

Befroe we get to the breakdown, click here for all the notes of the day, including some praise for Jordan Lyles, Michael Bourn talking about his spring base-stealing technique, an update on when some roster cuts might come, Brett Myers dissecting his outing and even a mention of a Hollywood actress who came to see the Astros on Sunday.

What went right: The Astros had 10 extra-base hits, including home runs by Jason Michaels and Carlos Lee, and had a spring-high 17 hits.

“The main thing is that I’m feeling pretty good at the plate, seeing the ball real good and taking good swings and good at-bats,” Lee said. “That’s a good start to be building on. We’ve got three more weeks to go. It felt pretty good to hit one out this early. That means you can only improve from that and expect to put last year away.”

Much of the damage was done by players who likely won’t make the Opening Day roster: Catcher Carlos Corporan and first baseman Brian Dopirak was 2-for-3 , and J.D. Martinez  and Anderson Hernandez were both 2-for-2. Matt Downs continued his good spring, going 2-for-4 with a triple and double.

Jason Bourgeois, playing center field, smoked the ball three times and had one hit to show for it.

“I took my last at-bat yesterday against the Cardinals sand I thought about it and felt good about it,” Bourgeois said. “I had a simple base hit back up the middle, but I really found my rhythm and timing, and it’s starting to come together.”

Brett Myers, mixing in the curveball for the first time this spring, allowed five hits and two runs in three innings and continues to proceed accordingly. Brandon Lyon, who had a rough outing last time out, pitched a scoreless inning, which was a rarity. The only other Astros pitcher to throw a scoreless inning was Fernando Rodriguez.

What went wrong: It was a bad day to be on the mound for the Astros, who gave up 21 hits. Not only was the wind blowing out and the infield was harder than normal because the tarp was on the field during morning rain, but the Yankees were aggressive and continually made solid contact.

Jeff Fulchino, who looked terrific in striking out Derek Jeter in the fifth, later gave up four hits in the inning, including a long home run to Alex Rodriguez. Fulchino, Fernando Abad and Gustavo Chacin each gave up four hits and two runs in one inning of work. Wesley Wright took the loss allowing three hits and two runs (one earned) in his one inning of work.

Jimmy Paredes, who entered the game as a defensive replacement to face his former organization, committed his third error of the year has looked very raw this spring. The Astros acquired him from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade.

What they said: “This was definitely a Spring Training game. Not only did you see balls bounce through with the rain and having the tarp on the field, but the grounds crew does the best it can with the rain but the wind dries it out. Balls were going through and it was quite a day to work on our cut-offs and relays and everything else. A lot of teaching things, a lot of learning experiences.” – manager Brad Mills said.

What’s next: Left-hander J.A. Happ makes his second Grapefruit League start for the Astros when the travel to Viera, Fla., to face the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT on Monday. Bud Norris, a starter, will piggyback Happ and throw three innings. Patrick Urckfitz, Jorge De Leon and Jose Valdez are also scheduled to pitch.

Injury update: Not much new to report. Jason Michaels’ sore arm doesn’t seem to be bothering him at the plate and he could be in the outfield on Tuesday, and Wilton Lopez was sent home because he was sick.

Now to the pictures:

 

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Above: Astros players, coaches and staff pose for a picture Sunday morning. The man without a uniform in the middle is owner Drayton McLane, whose grandkids threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game against the Yankees.

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Above: Astros manager Brad Mills and owner Drayton McLane pose for a picture.

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Above: Some Astros pitchers and catchers stand on the mounds and talk strategy before throwing/catching their bullpens.

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Above: Third baseman Chris Johnson shows good form while trying to field a grounder.

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Above: Tony De Francesco, the new manager at Triple-A Oklahoma City, hits some ground balls during drills on Sunday morning.

Game 7: Wandy comes around

The Astros were held scoreless twice on Saturday, losing split-squad games to the Tigers, 5-0, in Kissimmee and, 1-0, to the Cardinals in Jupiter. Not all was lost, however. The Astros had some great pitching performances in both games, but since I was in Kissimmee that will be the focus of today’s rundown:

What went right: Wandy Rodriguez, coming off a shaky outing in his first Grapefruit League start of the season, rebounded to throw three innings Saturday against the Tigers, allowing three hits and two runs. He didn’t throw a ball until two outs in the third inning when he walked Brandon Inge. His first 16 pitches were strikes, striking out Will Rhymes on three pitches to start the game and whiffing both Andy Dirks and Ben Guez on three pitches in the third.

Astros manager Brad Mills was impressed with how Wilton Lopez mowed through the Tigers in an quick 1-2- inning, and how Douglas Arguello threw a scoreless inning.

Offensively, Hunter Pence went 2-for-3 to increase his spring average to .500, and Koby Clemens had a nice at-bat against Justin Verlander and singled over the shortstop in his first at-bat. Carlos Lee and Jonathan Villar had the other hits.

Shortstop Clint Barmes made a nice defensive play when he snagged a line drive out of the air, and Oswaldo Navarro at third and Michael Bourn in center contributed to the fine defense with some good plays.

J.D. Martinez, the Astros’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2010, made his Grapefruit League debut Saturday and went 0-for-3 at designated hitter against Detroit, but he said the quad strain that kept out of action felt better.

What went wrong: Ross Wolf, who had pitched so well in his previous outing, was roughed up for four hits and two runs in two innings in relief, raising his ERA to 4.50. Second baseman Jimmy Paredes, the second baseman acquired in the Lance Berkman trade, committed two errors in one play, fumbling a ground ball and then throwing it into the dugout.

Michael Bourn went 0-for-3 to fall to .200 and Clint Barmes went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. The Astros struck out 11 times, including Barmes, Pence and Lee in order in the sixth.

What they said: “He was mixing his pitches real well. I thought his curveball was exceptional today, and he was really working his fastball down in the zone.” - Astros manager Brad Mills on Wandy Rodriguez.

What’s next: The New York Yankees make their only visit of the spring to Osceola County Stadium at 12:05 p.m. Sunday. Brett Myers, who’s expected to be the Astros’ Opening Day starter, will make his second start of the spring after throwing two scoreless innings Tuesday against the Braves. Also scheduled to pitch for the Astros: Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino, Fernando Abad, Mark Melancon, Lance Pendleton, Wesley Wright and Aneury Rodriguez.

Injury report: Outfielder J.D. Martinez made his spring debut and went 0-for-3, but he said his strained quad felt fine. … An MRI performed on right-hander Alberto Arias showed now additional structural damage. He has inflammation and will have another week of rest.

Now to the photos:

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Above: Clint Barmes, Bill Hall and Hunter Pence chat before workouts Saturday morning.

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Above: Brad Mills, a very hands-on manager, hits comebackers to the mound during a drill Saturday morning. Notice the long line of pitchers waiting for their turn.

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Above: Manager Brad Mills likes to make the rounds during batting practice and talk to players individually. Here, he spends a few moments with Hunter Pence on Saturday.

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Above: Carlos Lee takes a cut during batting practice Saturday morning.

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Above: Michael Bourn entertains teammates in the outfield during batting practice.

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Above: This is Chan Jong Moon, who signed with the Astros out of Korea as an 18-year-old on September, 2009. He’s a left-handed hitting infielder who hit .215 in 93 games in his professional debut last year in the Gulf Coast League.

Game 6: Final outs prove to be tough for Astros

The big news of the day at Astros camp was Friday morning’s announcement that starting catcher Jason Castro would likely miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, in addition to the medial meniscus tear that was revealed Thursday.

For more information on the Castro injury, click here.

For a look at some of the catchers that could be available via trade, click here.

On the field, the Astros lost the Cardinals, 10-2, at Osceola County Stadium. The Cardinals scored nine of their 10 runs after two outs as Astros pitchers had trouble finishing off innings.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Jason Michaels continued his hot spring by going 2-for-2 in the designated hitter role, raising his average to .500. Michaels isn’t seeing any time in the outfield because right arm is giving him a little bit of discomfort.

Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan each had a hit, and Matt Downs homered to left field in the second inning.

On the mound, Fernando Abad breezed through a scoreless inning with one strikeout, and Patrick Urckfitz and Casey Fien each threw a scoreless inning. Ryan Rowland-Smith got the start and didn’t too poorly. He retired five of the first six batters he faced before a two-out walk in second allowed the Cardinals to score three times.

“Finding that third out was elusive,” manager Brad Mills said. “I thought the ball came out of Ryan Rowland-Smith’s hand well. He deserved a little bit better fate than what happened, simply because he was throwing the ball so well.”

What went wrong: The Astros committed three errors, including two in the sixth inning when Mark Melancon was on the mound. Angel Sanchez made a fielding error, and catcher Carlos Corporan had a throwing error in the inning, helping the Cardinals score two unearned runs.

“He did a great job of getting those ground balls,” Mills said of Melancon. “You want your pitcher to get those ground balls. His breaking ball was much more consistent than his last outing, which was sure nice to see. He got some plenty of ground balls that should have finished the innings.”

The Astros were held to eight hits, with Downs’ homer the only extra-base hit in the bunch.

“You saw some real good at-bats and some questionable,” Mills said. “We saw some balls hit hard and some early-count outs, and you don’t want to see those as much. That’s going to happen, too, don’t get me wrong. I realize that’s going to happen, but you’d like to see more consistency.”

Closer Brandon Lyon allowed four hits and two runs in one inning, and Lance Pendleton’s bid for a roster spot wasn’t helped by allowing two hits, a walk and one run in one inning. Jeff Fulchino gave up a pair of unearned runs.

What they said: “Obviously, you want the results and you want to feel good. I’m not going to lie about that. The results weren’t there for me today, but I felt strong and was on top of the ball and my mechanics felt good. I was throwing all my pitches around the zone. I was happy with that and I just missed a few pitches.” - Astros pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith.

What’s next: Wandy Rodriguez, who gave up five hits and six runs in his first spring outing, tries to right the ship when he faces the Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT in a split squad game at Osceola County Stadium. He had a poor spring a year ago and needs a good showing. Jordan Lyles, the team’s top prospect, makes his first start of the spring in the other split-squad game against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Injury update: Catcher Jason Castro underwent major surgery on his right knee Friday and is likely out for the season. … Outfielder J.D. Martinez is nursing a sore quadriceps and is awaiting his first Grapefruit League action of the spring. … Jason Michaels has been limited to designated hitting duties with some arm discomfort.

And, finally, here are some pictures from Friday:

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Above: Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg catches a portion of J.A. Happ’s bullpen session.

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Above: Jeff Bagwell talks with Brett Myers before Bagwell left camp and returned home.

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Above: Bud Norris throws on the practice mounds Friday, with Arnsberg behind him.

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Above: A 1980s Astros reunion? That’s Cesar Cedeno in between Enos Cabell and Jose Cruz. Sorry, I couldn’t get a good shot of Cedeno’s face, but trust me. That’s him.

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Above: Angel Sanchez practices putting down a bunt.

Catching options available for Astros

With starting catcher Jason Castro likely out for the season, the Astros are looking for a replacement. They are going to take a long look at those in camp — Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan — and keep an eye on which players get cut as teams begin to pare their rosters in the coming weeks.

You can bet Astros general manager Ed Wade and his staff will begin looking outside the organization and talking to other teams about possible trades. Here are some catching options that might be available:

  • Ryan Doumit, Pirates: Doumit, who slid into a backup role when the Pirates acquired Chris Snyder, wants out of Pittsburgh and is being shopped because the Pirates don’t want to pay $5.1 million for a backup.  Pittsburgh would be willing to eat some salary if they can get a good package in return.
  • Brian Schneider, Phillies: He’s an 11-year veteran who’s serving as the backup this year in Philadelphia. He hit .240 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 125 at-bats last year. Wade and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have a history of making deals.
  • A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: He’s the third string behind Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro and figures to start the season in Triple-A. He’s not a major prospect and the White Sox aren’t going to give him away.
  • Kelly Shoppach, Rays: The 30-year-old Fort Worth native is making only about $2 million this year and is two years removed from hitting 12 homers and driving in 40 runs.
  • Tyler Flowers, White Sox: He was in line to take over A.J. Pierzynski, who wound up signing a two-year deal. The White Sox have a lot of catching depth and acquired Flowers, 25, from the Braves as part of the Javier Vazquez deal in 2008.
  • Yankees: They’re catching rich in the farm system, but the Astros wouldn’t be looking for a prospect.
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