Game 7: Another rough day on the mound

There might not be a more difficult environment to judge pitchers, especially early in camp, than in central Florida. The wind is usually whipping around and bright, sunny skies make tracking fly balls difficult. What does this have to do with pitchers? Astros starter J.A. Happ was victimized by the conditions when left fielder J.D. Martinez lost a fly ball in the sun in the first inning Friday, and right Jason Bourgeois couldn’t quite corral a ball in the fourth as it darted through the wind and the sun’s rays.

Still, Happ was the first to say he needs to pitch around that stuff, and ultimately the outfielders know they need to make those plays. It was just one of those days at the ballpark for the Astros, who lost consecutive games for the first time this spring, 11-2, to the Jays at Osceola County Stadium. You can see the boxscore here.

The big news from camp Friday was the decision by the Astros to keep the pistol on the retro Colt .45s jerseys they will wear twice this year. You can read all about it here, including reaction from an original Colt .45.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Let’s start with two guys coming off injuries — third baseman Jimmy Paredes and catcher Jason Castro.

Castro caught six innings — his longest stint of the spring — and continues to look strong. He went 1-for-2 at the plate with an RBI and a double and threw out the speedy Anthony Gose trying to steal. You remember Anthony Gose, right? He was one of the players the Astros acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal, but they quickly spun him to the Jays for Brett Wallace.

Paredes, meanwhile, made his first start of the spring after nursing a wrist injury and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and three balls that were hit hard, to both fields. He also made a nice defensive play at third base on a bases-loaded dribbler, picking the ball and throwing out the runner at first. He’s going to be fun to watch for sure.

The other Astros hits came off the bats of Brandon Barnes, Carlos Lee, George Springer and Jose Altuve.

Eight Astros pitchers took the mound, and David Carpenter, Wilton Lopez and Wesley Wright each threw a scoreless inning to end the game. Carpenter struck out two batters, and Lopez whiffed all three batters he faced. Wright had one strikeout.

The Astros didn’t commit an error.

What went wrong: Starting pitcher J.A. Happ was shaky and needed 64 pitches to make it through 2 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, three runs and three walks. It’s early and he’s still working on stuff, but Happ would like to see better results. Left fielder J.D. Martinez lost a ball in the sun in the first inning that led to a run, and perhaps both runs Happ allowed.

“With Happ, I would have liked to have seen him stay in control of the [first] inning a little bit,” manager Brad Mills said. “After that first guy gets on, that kind of shook him up a little bit. And then the ball got right in the sun for J.D. and it was kind of tough. At least we were able to talk about it with him and hopefully we can get away from that.”

Here are some video highlights and interviews with Happ and Mills.

Brett Myers is trying to build arm strength as he gets geared up to be the closer and allowed three hits and three runs in one inning, throwing a lot of fastballs. He, too, saw an outfielder misplay a fly ball because of the elements, which could have affected his line. Don’t worry about Myers. He’ll be fine.

Aneury Rodriguez was simply just knocked around. Rodriguez had a 1-2-3 fifth inning, striking out a pair, before getting tagged for five hits, five runs and two walks in the sixth as the game got out of hand.

“He had such a good first inning and then lead-off home run got to him and the four-pitch base on balls got him in trouble. All in all, the six walks was a big detriment to what happened today,” Mills said.

At the plate, the Astros were held to six hits. Jordan Schafer, Jason Bourgeois and Brian Bogusevic were 0-for-3.

What they said: “Offensively, their guy [pitcher Henderson Alvarez] was getting head of us throwing quality strikes right away. We still did a pretty good job of having some pretty good at-bats. We did hit quite a few balls hard. I’m trying to look at some of the bright things. We scored two runs, but when you get down like that it takes a lot out of your offense as well.” — Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Left-hander Zach Duke will state his case to be in the starting rotation when he makes his first start of the spring when the Astros meet the Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Dunedin, Fla. Duke pitched three innings in relief Monday. Jordan Lyles will pitch behind Duke and could go three innings.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero, who had a cortisone injection into his back on Wednesday to help alleviate the pain from a bulging disk, will catch in the bullpen on Saturday and attempt to block balls and throw on Sunday, with hopes of making his return Monday against the Yankees. … Infielder Angel Sanchez, who has been dealing with back pain, didn’t play in Friday’s game against Toronto as originally planned. Astros manager Brad Mills said he didn’t want to put Sanchez in a game that was out of hand. Mills said the team doctors don’t want Sanchez riding the bus for four hours Saturday when the Astros travel to Dunedin, Fla., to play the Jays, so he plans to have him in the starting lineup Sunday at home against the Tigers. … LHP Sergio Escalona (elbow soreness) continues to play catch.

Here are the photos:

Brett Myers plays catch in the morning.

Astros Minor League players hit the field after hearing a speech from manager Brad Mills.

Third base coach Dave Clark hits balls to the outfielders.

Jose Altuve and Jason Bourgeois hit the field for BP.

Jason Bourgeois bunts as I tell him to keep the bat head out front.

Jordan Schafer fouls off a pitch in BP.

Brian Bogusevic gets his gear in order to get ready to hit.

Milo Hamilton lectures a group of journalism students from Ball State.

Jeff Luhnow and Brad Mills talk behind the cage.

Milo Hamilton interviews Jason Bourgeois, who I think should get into broadcasting when his career is over.

1 Comment

What in the heck are they going to do with J.A. Happ????
The guy is an enigma, and he lets the gremlins get into his head.
I can’t watch another season like last year with this kid.

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