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Game 16: Feldman, Peacock put in solid day of work

The fact:  Gio Gonzalez allowed three hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings and Steven Souza Jr. hit a pair of solo home runs and added an RBI triple to lead the Nationals to a 4-3 win over the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Scott Feldman will be good to go on Opening Day. So, the Astros haven’t formally announced Feldman will be their Opening Day starter, but manager Bo Porter said Sunday that decision could be made public soon. Feldman had his longest outing of the spring Sunday, allowing eight hits and three runs in four innings against the Nationals.

“I’m still working on thing sand trying to get that command going to where I know where the all is going a little better,” said Feldman, who gave up two home runs. “I made some mistakes and they hit some fly balls, especially out here in Spring Training, they’re going to go a long ways.”

Player of the game: RHP Brad Peacock was sharp in four innings in relief, thanks to a polished changeup. He allowed two hits and one run and struck out four batters in his first Grapefruit League outing in two weeks. Last year, Peacock had three stints on the Major League roster and went 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in his final 12 appearances of the season (nine starts), setting him up to battle for a rotation spot this spring. He credited an improved slider with helping him succeed a year ago, but he focused on the change Sunday.

“Last year, I had three decent pitches and I just needed a changeup,” he said. “Me and [pitching coach Brent Strom] have been working every day and trying to throw it like my fastball and make it look like my fastball.”

Read more about Peacock here.

What went wrong: The Astros managed just eight hits, including three doubles, and were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. … 2B Jose Altuve was charged with an error for dropping a relay throw from 3B Matt Dominguez, though it appeared Altuve may have held on long enough to get the out.

Notable: Feldman was originally scheduled to start a Minor League game, before the Astros decided to throw him in a Grapefruit League game. … 1B Jonathan Singleton had an RBI double to score SS Carlos Correa.

Quotable: “I felt like we played really well defensively. The positioning was good and guys made crisp plays,” — Astros manager Bo Porter.

Up next: LHP Brett Oberholtzer gets another chance to try to win a spot in the starting rotation when the Astros face the Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., weather permitting (rain is forecast). Oberholtzer, who was arguably the Astros’ best pitcher in the second half of  last season, has appeared in two Grapefruit League games and allowed six earned runs in four innings. He hasn’t pitched in a big league game since throwing two innings against Washington on March 7.

Injuries: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Class A Quad Cities receives Midwest League championship rings

Astros cut seven from camp Sunday

Porter not ready to name a closer

Tweets of the day:

Pictures of the day:

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Doug Brocail watches Jarred Cosart

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Brent Strom and Brocail watch Cosart

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Matt Dominguez and Marwin Gonzalez

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Bo Porter and Lucas Harrell

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Quad Cities manager Omar Lopez talks to his team at ring ceremony

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Carlos Correa talks to teammates at ring ceremony

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2013 Midwest League champs, Quad Cities

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Mark Appel, Carlos Correa, Rio Ruiz and Lance McCullers Jr.

Owens among five cut by Astros on Sunday

The Astros trimmed their Spring Training roster by five players Sunday, optioning left-hander pitcher Rudy Owens and right-handers Jose Cisnero, Collin McHugh and Chia-Jen Lo and reassigning catcher Tyler Heineman to Minor League camp.

None of the cuts, which leave the Astros with 46 players remaining in camp, come as a surprise. Lo, who appeared in 19 games for the Astros last season, was competing for one of the spots in the bullpen and appeared in four games this spring, allowing one earned run in 3 1/3 innings.

Owens, coming off a foot injury that cost him nearly the entire 2013 season, was a long shot to make the rotation and will likely be in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He appeared in three games this spring, making two starts, and was 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA.

Acquired from the Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez deal in 2012, Owens missed most of last season because of a stress fracture in his left foot. He made merely four appearances, three starts, producing an 0-3 record and 3.71 ERA in 17 innings. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League, producing a 3-2 record and 2.68 ERA in 10 starts and 53 2/3 innings.

McHugh, claimed off waivers in December, appeared in three games this spring and allowed 12 hits and nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. He split last season between the Mets and Rockies and the Minor Leagues of both organizations.

Cisnero went 2-2 with a 4.12 ERA in 28 games in his Major League debut last year. He pitched in three games in Grapefruit League play, allowing three hits and one earned run in 2 1/3 innings. Heineman spent all of last season at Class A Lancaster, hitting .286 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs.

Game 15: Tigers jump all over Harrell, Astros

The fact:  The Tigers pounded out 18 hits, jumping on Astros starter Lucas Harrell for 10 runs in the first two innings, to beat Houston, 14-3, on Saturday in Lakeland, Fla. (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Lucas Harrell still has some work to do. Harrell found himself in trouble from the get-go and wound up allowing 12 hits and 10 runs (nine earned) in 1 2/3 innings. The Tigers definitely hit some balls hard — Ian Kinsler hit the first of his two homers off Harrell — but he did give up some weak contact for hits and didn’t have a few plays made behind him.

“Sometimes things go your way when you’re getting ground balls, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Harrell said. “Just one of those things today even though I was making pitches, sometimes you have tip your cap. They made better hits.”

Here’s more on Harrell.

Player of the game: LF Robbie Grossman. He went 2-for-3 and socked his first homer of the spring in the fourth inning, coming against 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Grossman is hitting .417 this spring.

What went wrong: Harrell certainly didn’t have his best stuff, putting the Astros in a 10-1 hole after two innings. … Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler homered off Harrell and RHP Chad Qualls, and Tigers CF Tyler Collins had a single, triple and a homer, which came against RHP Josh Zeid. … RHP Peter Moylan walked the first two hitters he faced and wound up giving up a run on a sac fly.

Notable: IF Marwin Gonzalez kept his strong spring going by hitting a double off the wall in his only at-bat. He’s hitting .481. … Jesus Guzman started at third and was charged with an error. He also couldn’t handle a pair of grounders in the first inning that went for hits, but perhaps could have been played into outs.

Quotable: “They put some good swings on the ball, throughout the course of the day, not just in the first couple of innings,” — Astros manager Bo Porter.

Up next: Right-hander Brad Peacock makes his second start of the spring when the Astros return home to face the split-squad Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla. Peacock, who was roughed up for five earned runs and four hits in one inning of work in his only spring start March 1 against the Tigers in Lakeland, needs a strong outing to bolster his candidacy to break camp with a spot in the starting rotation. He’s pitched in a pair of Minor League games since his last Grapefruit League start.

Injuries: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Marwin Gonzalez has put himself in good spot to make the team

Peter Moylan knows spring work isn’t yet done

GM Jeff Luhnow sees Rodon on scouting trip

Mark Appel could see game action in a week

Tweets of the day:

Pictures of the day:

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George Springer signs for a fan

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Jim Leyland, Brad Ausmus and Chad Qualls

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Robert Ford interviews Gregario Petit

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Matt Albers and Peter Moylan

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L.J. Hoes fools around with George Springer

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L.J. Hoes, Jon Singleton

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Darin Downs visits with former manager Jim Leyland

Game 10: Late rally snaps losing skid

The fact:  The Astros rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to come from behind and beat the Blue Jays, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: LHP Rudy Owens knows he’s getting a great opportunity to impress the staff by getting to start two games so far in Grapefruit League play, and he made the most of it Sunday by going three innings and allowing one hit and no runs while striking out two against the Jays. He was roughed up in his previous outing Tuesday.

“I knew today was a big day for me,” he said. “I needed to show up and I did. I’m happy that they’re letting me start games. This is my first year actually being able to throw in a game to start and it feels pretty good. It’s comfortable. I’m not used to throwing out of the bullpen. Being able to start the game feels normal. I like it.”

Player of the game: C Jason Castro. After scuffling at the plate to start the spring, Castro went 2-for-3 on Sunday and belted his first home run of the spring, a two-run shot.

What went wrong: RHP Anthony Bass, who was in the mid-90s with his fastball and upper 80s with his slider, struggled in his one inning of work by allowing four hits and two runs. … LHP Raul Valdes didn’t pitch well, giving up two hits and a run in one inning. … 1B Jonathan Singleton went 0-for-3 to fall to 0-for-15 for the season, and RF George Springer went 0-for-3 to fall to 1-for-13 (.077).

Notable: DH Chris Carter, who crushed a pair of balls on Saturday, including his first home run, kept it up Sunday by going 2-for-3 with no strikeouts. … IF Marwin Gonzalez and C Carlos Perez had RBI hits in the eighth inning. … LHP Kevin Chapman added to his fine spring with a one-inning outing. RHP Matt Albers and RHP Peter Moylan also threw an inning each.

Quotable: “I felt like we played a complete game today. Good pitching, good defense, timely hitting. Marwin with the big double late in the game, [and] I felt like the pitchers did a good job with the tempo and attacking the strike zone. It was good to see a clean game.”— Astros manager Bo Porter.

Up next: The rotation turns over with right-hander Lucas Harrell getting the start when the Astros return to Viera, Fla., to play the Nationals at 5:05 p.m. CT at Space Coast Stadium. Harrell has pitched five innings in two starts, allowing four hits and one run. Following him to the mound will be Mike Foltynewicz, Peter Moylan, Josh Fields and Josh Zeid.

Injuries: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Feature: Robbie Grossman changed his swing and proved his worth

Porter goes 0-for-2 on replay challenges

Astros make first roster cuts of spring

Porter pleased with potential of top three in order

Struggling Singleton is 0-for-15 at the plate

Tweets of the day:

Astros make first cuts of spring

The Astros made their first cuts of camp Sunday morning, reassigning right-handers Jake Buchanan, Bobby Doran, Jason Stoffel and Nick Tropeano, infielders Jonathan Meyer and Ronald Torreyes and outfielders Leo Heras and Preston Tucker to Minor League camp. They also optioned right-hander Paul Clemens to Minor League camp.

Most of the players who were sent out didn’t have a realistic shot to make the Major League club and were in camp to be around big league players and get familiar with the staff.

That can’t be said for Clemens, who went 4-7 with a 5.40 ERA in 35 games (five starts) for the Astros last year and was in the mix for a spot on the pitching staff. He had pitched in only two games this spring, allowing six hits and three runs in three innings, but the Astros want him to get stretched out and work on fastball command.

“Paul has had mixed reviews at the big leagues,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “There’s been times when he’s been very good and times when he’s been inconsistent. We just need him to go get steady innings down in the Minor Leagues, and we’re having trouble right now finding innings for everybody. We still see Paul as a starting pitcher. We want to stretch him out, and the best way for us to do that right now is at the Minor League level.”

With starting pitchers going longer in games and with so many position players in camp, the Astros were still having trouble spreading around the at-bats, which is why they made the moves. Minor League camp has begun in earnest, and games begin on Friday.

“Like I said to all those guys we talked to today, there comes a point in spring from a starting pitching standpoint and from a pitching standpoint, the innings start to get scarce and these guys are a part of our plans down the road and you want to give them an opportunity to get themselves ready for their season,” manager Bo Porter said. “From a position-player standpoint, the position players are going to start to play deeper into games, which is going to minimize the number of at-bats we have to go around and we need those guys to get regular playing time.”

The moves leave the Astros with 56 players in camp.

Game 8: Long day against the Yankees

The fact: The split-squad Astros banged out 12 hits and committed three errors in a 9-6 loss to the Yankees on Saturday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

Meanwhile, in Clearwater, the other Astros team lost, 11-3, to the Phillies (boxscore). That was despite LHP Dallas Keuchel throwing three hitless innings. But more on the game in Kissimmee…

What we learned: RHP Jarred Cosart’s focus on Saturday was his curveball, which is why he wasn’t too worried about the results, giving up two hits and two runs (one earned) in 1 2/3 innings of work.

Cosart said he’s been working with pitching coach Brent Strom on establishing his curveball the last few days because he thinks it could get hitters off his fastball if he can throw more strikes. He threw75 percent strikes with his curveball in the first inning and 65 percent in the second inning.

“Brent told me if I can do that throughout the year, I’m going to have a lot of success,” Cosart said. “They’re really not worried about the fastball as much right now because they think it’s going to be there, and I do, too. But at the same time, I’ve still got to throw more strikes.

Player of the game: DH Chris Carter. The big guy slugged his first home run of the spring, clubbing a three-run shot in the fifth inning that gave the Astros a 6-4 lead they couldn’t keep. Carter has been working on hitting more line drives this offseason.

“It’s just good to show that everything you worked on in and everything you worked on since you been here is coming together,” said Carter, who led the club with 29 homers last year. “I think I’m going to have a better this year with everything and be an all-around hitter.

What went wrong: The Astros were sloppy on defense. CF Dexter Fowler’s throw to the infield rolled into the dugout, allowing two runs to score. 2B Jose Altuve committed an error in the second that led to a run, and 1B Telvin Nash — a Minor Leaguer — mysteriously threw home when he had a shot at an inning-ending double play. SS Jonathan Villar also made his third error of the spring. … RHP Jose Cisnero, LHP Darin Downs and RHP Jake Buchanan each had rough days on the mound.

Notable: CF Dexter Fowler, 2B Jose Altuve and C Jason Castro, the top three hitters in the Astros lineup, went a combined combined 4-for-9. For Castro, it was his first hit of the spring after starting 0-for-10. … 3B-2B Cesar Izturis went 2-for-3 and could be a solid addition if he makes the club. … 1B Marc Krauss went 1-for-2 and is hitting .529 (9-for-17).

Quotable: “There was some fundamental things we need to get cleaned up, but I’ll you, I thought we swung the bat well. Altuve and Dexter swung the bat well early in the game and Carter with the big three-run homer. Krauss continues to swing the bat well. We did have a couple of fundamental things that led to a couple of extra outs for the other teams, and we’ll get those things cleaned up,” — Astros manager Bo Porter.

Up next: Left-hander Rudy Owens, who was roughed up in his first career Major League Spring Training start earlier this week, will get the ball for the Astros when they face the Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday at Osceola County Stadium. Anthony Bass, Raul Valdes, Matt Albers and Kevin Chapman are also scheduled to throw.

Injuries: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Porter unsuccessful in his first challenge of the spring

Jack Armstrong Jr., no longer a pitcher, trying his hand at first base

Tweets of the day:

Pictures of the day:

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Dexter Fowler gives Lucas Harrell a visual aid

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Harrell and Fowler help each other

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George Springer

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Springer follows through

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Correa follows through

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Correa

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Correa

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Correa talks to Geoff Blum, Jim Crane

Astros, Nats reviewing 10 spring sites

Officials from the Astros and Nationals were presented with 10 locations for a possible Spring Training sites, including eight locations in Palm Beach County – the Astros’ preferred site. Vero Beach, the longtime home to the Dodgers that sits vacant, and Tradition Field in Port. St. Lucie were the two other sites.

Palm Beach County commissioner Hal Valeche said county officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday to recap the meeting, which included officials from St. Lucie County as well.

The Astros are looking to relocate their spring site when their lease expires in Kissimmee following 2016, but they would need to have an agreement by the end of this year for that to be possible. The Nationals and Astros have talked about sharing a new facility.

Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe, who’s spearheading the move, didn’t return messages.

Astros owner Jim Crane toured Tradition Field – the spring home of the Mets – earlier this week, and the facility could be converted into a two-team complex to be shared with the Mets. The Dodgers left their Vero Beach location – known as Dodgertown – in 2008 and now train in Arizona.

Game 6: Scherzer, Tigers shut down Astros

What happened: RHP Max Scherzer and five Tigers relievers combined to beat the Astros, 3-0, on a three-hit shutout in Kissimmee (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Lucas Harrell‘s sinker is coming along nicely. As we all know, Harrell’s sinker, which betrayed him so often last year, is the key to his success. He threw three innings and recorded six ground-ball outs.

“That was a huge thing for me today,” Harrell said. “I didn’t have one ball hit into the air. The defense behind me played great. [Third baseman Matt] Dominguez made a couple of nice plays, and [shortstop Carlos] Correa made a nice play and almost got up and threw a guy out in the first inning, so it was really nice to see those guys laying it out and getting dirty for the ball.”

What we learned II: Overall, manager Bo Porter is happy with the kind of baseball the Astros are playing at this point in the spring. Sure, they were held to three hits Wednesday, but he lauded the at-bats and deep counts.

“I think that these guys are really honing into the strike zone and understanding who they are,” he said. “I think that the pitches in which we are attacking are the right pitches. Sometimes you’re going to have days in which you attack the right pitch and you don’t square the ball up or you don’t get a hit. I feel like I all facets of the game, we’re playing good baseball.”

What else: 2B Jose Altuve had the only hit against Scherzer, and LF J.D. Martinez added a single later in the game. LF Robbie Grossman had the only other hit, a double. … RHPs Chad Qualls and Jose Ciserno each threw a scoreless inning, and RHP Mike Foltynewicz threw two scoreless innings while facing seven batters. … RHP Anthony Bass gave up two runs (one earned) and three hits in two innings.

What went wrong: 2B Marwin Gonzalez made an error, and RF George Springer had an error when he let a ball get past him in the outfield. … The Astros didn’t muster much offensively. It started with the Tigers’ Scherzer, who went three strong innings and allowed only an Altuve single.

“It all starts on the mound, and obviously he’s the reigning Cy Young Award winner,” Porter said. “He has great stuff, but I felt like our pitchers did a tremendous job today.

What they said: “His ability to strike people out, it’s unbelievable. You saw it last year on display. He’s got an electric fastball and a great slider. Maybe I could just take it all.” –Astros RHP Lucas Harrell on facing Scherzer. The two played with and against each other growing up in Missouri.

What’s next: RHP Brad Peacock makes his second appearance of the spring when the Astros face the Mets at 12:05 p.m. CT Thursday at Osceola County Stadium. Peacock, who’s competing for a spot in the rotation, was rocked for five runs and four hits in one inning of work Friday at Detroit and struggled with fastball command.

Who’s injured: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jesse Crain (biceps tendon surgery recovery), OF Adron Chambers (hamstring strain), RHP Jorge De Leon (quad strain), LHP Raul Valdes (left knee surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Feature: Young relievers who debuted last year eager to contribute

Astros get glimpse of future with prospect-laden lineup

Fowler scratched from lineup with neck stiffness

Chambers ready to get on the field

Pipeline perspective: Springer too good not to star

Tweets of the day:

https://twitter.com/Folty25/status/441324903544156160

https://twitter.com/MAppel26/status/441190319527587840

https://twitter.com/MRLJHOES2U/status/441185084968669184

The day in photos:

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Jose Altuve and Enos Cabell

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Bo Porter and Craig Biggio

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Astros work on base running

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Craig Biggio plays catch with Jose Altuve

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Craig Biggio hits grounders during BP

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Jon Singleton and Robbie Grossman

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Future middle infield? Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve

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Former teammates Biggio, Ausmus and Blum in different roles

 

Astros’ young guns on display

The Astros’ top three prospects – shortstop Carlos Correa, first baseman Jon Singleton and outfielder George Springer – were all in the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Tigers at Osceola Count y Stadium. Also in the lineup was the team’s No. 7-rated prospect Delino DeShields Jr., who replaced Dexter Fowler about 15 minutes prior to game time

Fowler was scratched because of stiffness in his neck, and the team said it was purely precautionary.

Singleton and Springer have a shot to make the Opening Day roster, but seeing them in the same lineup along with veterans like Fowler, Jose Altuve and Jason Castro gives you a glimpse of what the Astros could look like in the near future.

“It will be good to go out there and play some with pretty talented guys,” Springer said.

Astros manager Bo Porter will handle the playing time of veterans and youngsters differently. For guys like Fowler, Altuve and Chris Carter, he’ll talk with them about how many at-bats they need. The prospects get as many at-bats as Porter deems necessary.

“They’ve come here this year fresh off another year in the Minor Leagues in which they played at a high level,” Porter said. “We see these guys as part of our present and our future, and they’re going to get a long look this entire spring.”

Lineup vs. Tigers

CF DeShields

2B Altuve

C Castro

DH Carter

1B Singleton

RF Springer

LF Grossman

3B Dominguez

SS Correa

Biggio, Ausmus and Blum back together

 

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