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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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Tweets of the day

Astros tweets of the day:

Astros to be presented with spring site options

Astros owner Jim Crane said he is scheduled to meet with Palm Beach County officials on Thursday to be presented with three possible Spring Training locations within the county.

The Astros, whose contract at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., expires at the end of 2016, would like to relocate their spring camp to Palm Beach County and have had recent talks with the Nationals about building a two-team facility in the area. Crane said the Blue Jays remain an option, though he hasn’t talked to them lately.

The team had hoped to build a facility with the Blue Jays in Palm Beach Gardens, but it hit a roadblock when citizens voiced concern over traffic.

“If we’re going to do something, we really have to have a deal signed by the end of this year to make sure have time to get something built,” Crane said. “That’s kind of the timetable. I think everybody’s leaning in and the last location got a little resistance from the locals. We think it’s still a good location, but we’ll have to see what they have to present with us.”

Having the Astros and one other club share a facility in Palm Beach County would give the area five teams and bring some financial incentives from the state. That being said, Crane said remaining in Kissimmee would be an option if there are some improvements, and he said the team could look to move its spring operations to Arizona as well.

“We knew we had some time when we started [looking for a new site] last year, and I think the next six months we need to get something signed if we want to make a move,” he said. “Certainly, we’d like to stay there and there might be some upgrades there, but we’re still looking at Arizona. All the doors are open, and we hope one of them shuts.”

Crane was given a tour of Tradition Field on Tuesday by Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.

“This one has been here a while, and they’ve done a nice job of maintaining it and have some great common areas,” he said. “It looks like a very nice park.”

 

Astros statement regarding Singleton

Here is the Astros statement regarding first base prospect Jon Singleton, who said in an Associated Press interview he was a drug addict:

“We applaud Jon for the courage he has shown in tackling this issue head on. He has displayed a great deal of maturity and commitment over the past year and has the full support of the Astros organization. He is on the right track for his baseball career, and, more importantly, for his life. We are very proud of Jon.”

Astros tweets of the day

Here are the Astros tweets of the day:

Biggio arrives in camp, talks Hall snub

The outpouring of support he received from friends and family members made coming just two votes shy of being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame two months ago easier to swallow for Astros legend Craig Biggio.

Biggio, who arrived in Astros camp on Monday for four days, is likely to get elected next year when he’s on the ballot for a third time, but the man who has more hits than any other Astros player (3,060) and more doubles than any right-hander in history was disappointed.

“I really think the way that everybody’s felt really has made it easier for myself, as far as the disappointment that everybody expressed to me,” he said. “It made it easier for me, per say, just from the standpoint of people wanted it to happen. We kind of hoped it would happen, but it didn’t, but we came close. The way that everybody felt about it, it made it easier for me at least, I know that.”

When asked if he would like to see any changes in the voting process, Biggio said he’s not questioning anything.

“I’m grateful that we came really close and hopefully next year it will be a really magical year,” he said. “Like I said before, it’s not for me. It’s for my family number one, it’s for the fans, it’s for the organization, and I’m fourth on the list. It’s true.

“The Astros don’t have a guy in there, and I couldn’t think of something more exciting than be able to hopefully have that happen for them. You couldn’t get any closer. I knew I needed 39 votes or something from the year before, and we got the 39 votes, except they picked up two more writers.”

Biggio will spend time in camp in uniform and working with the Minor League players and big league players. He just came from North Carolina where he was watching his sons play at Notre Dame while scouting players the Astros are eyeing for the First-Year Player Draft. That included North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, who’s the favorite for the No. 1 pick for the Astros.

“He’s a nice player,” Biggio said.

Rodon pitched Saturday against UCLA in Cary, N.C., and too, the loss despite holding the Bruins to three hits and three walks in seven innings while striking out eight batters. Rodon is 1-2 with a 2.14 ERA in three starts, striking out 23 batters in 21 innings.

His next start will come this weekend against Notre Dame in Raleigh, N.C. Biggio’s youngest son, Cavan, is a freshman infielder for the Irish and has started all 11 games this year, hitting .263. His oldest son, Conor, is a junior who’s an extra outfielder.

Astros director of scouting Mike Elias has been leaning on Biggio to get give him a scouting report of some players while he gets to see his sons play.

“I’ve been in dialogue with Mike Elias and they’ve given me a list of guys that are potential people, and I’ll go look at them and we’ll get the opportunity to go back there for another week and see some more guys and some of the same guys, so it’s good,” he said.

Biggio said the scouting process takes teamwork, and he’s glad to provide it.

“Scouts are a huge part of your organization, and once scouts hand them off to the player development side of things and [director of player development] Quinton [McCracken] and everybody, it’s up to those guys to hopefully teach these young men how to tap into certain things,” Biggio said. “It’s up to them, predominantly. It’s fun with the whole process and the way it works.

“The draft is our future, and I think Mike is doing an excellent job of it so far. If we’re going to a game, we might as well see some guys and help out as much as we can. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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