Astros split up to face Pirates, Braves

The Astros will play their first split-squad games of the spring today when they meet the Pirates in Kissimmee and send another team to play the Braves down the road in Disney. Both games are scheduled to start at 12:05 p.m. CT.

“You hate having split squads this late in camp, but at the same time to get these guys some extra at-bats is good,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “Other than that, you’d probably prefer not to have them. We’re getting enough innings from our pitchers right now, but to get these guys enough at-bats is big.”

Mills will stay with the team in Kissimmee, sending bench coach Joe Pettini and pitching coach Doug Brocail to the game against the Braves.

“The biggest thing is I wanted to be around some of the guys that are here,” he said. “We kept [outfielder Brian Bogusevic] here and I want to see him. I want to see the middle infielders, Jed [Lowrie] and [Jose] Altuve, as well. That was the biggest determining factor for me. Plus, Broke wanted to see [Zach] Duke and we were going to be split up there and that meant I stayed here.”

Here are some morning notes:

  • Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who sprained his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield a week ago, is scheduled to return to the lineup Monday when the Astros face the Nationals in Viera, Fla. “He took some swings in the cage this morning and he feels a lot better,” Mills said.
  • Jack Cust, who has yet to play in the outfield in the Grapefruit League this spring because of a sore elbow, still isn’t ready to play defense. Cust will get a pinch-hit at-bat on Sunday against the Pirates and was scheduled to have another pinch-hit at-bat Monday against the Nationals.
  • Mills isn’t ready to commit to shortstop Jed Lowrie in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, but he’s certainly leaning that way. “He sees a lot of pitches, gets on base,” Mills said. “I like having a left-hander in that spot because if you’ve got a guy on, you’ve got a big hole there [on the right side of the infield]. He, especially, is able to utilize that hole.”
  • Jarred Cosart, the Astros’ top pitching prospect, will make an appearance on the mound in a Grapefruit League game for the first time this spring when he pitches against the Pirates in relief. He’s scheduled to throw four innings.
  • Catcher Jason Castro will start back-to-back games for the first time this spring when he starts against the Braves today. Catcher Chris Snyder, who starts today against the Pirates, will catch Monday against the Nationals in his first back-to-back outings.
  • Bud Norris threw 30-40 pitches during his Sunday bullpen session, throwing nothing but fastballs. Norris is trying to work though some minor tightness in his triceps and forearm.

Here is the lineup for the game in Kissimmee against the Pirates:

CF J.B. Shuck

SS Jed Lowrie

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Chris Snyder

3B Brett Wallace

2B Jose Altuve

LHP J.A. Happ

Here is the lineup for the game at Disney against the Braves:

CF Brian Bixler

2B Scott Moore

RF Travis Buck

1B Matt Downs

3B Chris Johnson

C Jason Castro

LF Justin Ruggiano

SS Marwin Gonzalez

LHP Zach Duke

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