Results tagged ‘ 2012 ’

Another shot at the 25-man roster

Teams must have their 25-man rosters set by 4 p.m. CT Wednesday, and it’s likely the Astros will have made their final decisions prior to Wednesday afternoon’s exhibition game against the White Sox at Minute Maid Park.

After announcing Sunday they were optioning Brett Wallace to Triple-A, the Astros officially have 31 players remaining in camp. One of those, pitcher Sergio Escalona, is going to be out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, meaning the Astros have five remaining cuts to make.

If shortstop Jed Lowrie (sprained right thumb) and center fielder Jordan Schafer (nerve in left hand) aren’t ready to go, they could also be put on the DL, opening up two more spots on the Opening Day roster.

With only a few days until Opening Day, let’s take another shot at the projected roster. And for the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to assume Lowrie and Schafer won’t be disabled.

Position player starters are listed in bold:

Catchers (2) – Jason Castro, Chris Snyder.

  • Analysis: This is set.

Infield (6) — Carlos Lee (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Jed Lowrie (SS), Chris Johnson (3B), Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Downs.

  • Analysis: When we did this about 10 days ago, we had Wallace as the sixth infielder. The four starters and Gonzalez are set, and I still think Downs lands a spot because of the year he had last year and the fact he can do so much. Brian Bixler, who was sent out of camp and brought back, has had a nice spring, though, and is also versatile.

Outfield (5) – J.D. Martinez (LF), Jordan Schafer (CF), Brian Bogusevic (RF), Travis Buck, Justin Ruggiano

  • Analysis: I’ve made one switch here from 10 days ago, giving Ruggiano a backup outfield spot over J.B. Shuck. I just think Ruggiano’s ability to go deep on occasion and the fact he swings from the right side of the plate in an outfield full of left-handers makes him valuable. Of course, If Schafer isn’t ready to go, that opens up a spot for Shuck.

Starting rotation (5) — Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Kyle Weiland, Lucas Harrell.

  • Analysis: With Livan Hernandez out of the picture, I believe that solidifies Weiland in the rotation. He’s had a very good spring. The other spot comes down to Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles. I’m giving the nod right now to Harrell, who pitches tonight in Corpus Christi. At 21, Lyles could benefit from some time at Triple-A.

Bullpen (7) — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, Fernando Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz.

  • Analysis: The changes I’ve made here are Wright getting the left-handed spot over Fernando Abad and Rule 5 pick Cruz making the club. Cruz has been hit or miss, but the more I hear general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills talk about him, the more I think they want to keep him. And there’s a spot open in the bullpen. If Lyles makes the rotation, Harrell could get the last bullpen spot as a long reliever. But the Astros have had a few of their relievers pitch two consecutive innings this spring in an effort to minimize the need for a long reliever.

Bixler, Sanchez among Astros roster cuts

The Astros trimmed their Major League roster by five more players Wednesday morning, reassigning infielders Angel Sanchez, Scott Moore and Brian Bixler to Minor League camp, optioning right-hander Enerio Del Rosario to the Minor Leagues and releasing infielder Joe Thurston. They’re down to 34 players in camp.

Bixler was the biggest surprise, considering he’s had a good camp at the plate and has shown his versatility by playing in the outfield. He slugged his third homer of the spring on Tuesday.

“It’s tough to talk to a guy about that, but he knows the situation we’re in,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He’s going to go to Triple-A and he’s going to be ready. He’s the type of guy who can play a lot of positions, has tools and is well-liked with our big league staff. I have a feeling if an opportunity arises, he’ll be back.”

Bixler will see time at shortstop and center field at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Sanchez, meanwhile, spent all of last season with the Astros and was the Opening Day starter at shortstop. He was slowed by a back injury early in spring, but was hitting .412 in Grapefruit League play.

“That’s one of his best assets is that he does swing the bat and takes a really good Major League at-bat,” Luhnow said. “That’s going to give him an opportunity to have a career at the big league level. Right now, we need him to go to Oklahoma City and play shortstop almost every day and be ready in case there’s a need.”

The moves leave the Astros with seven infielders, meaning one more cut will need to be made. If you have Carlos Lee, Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie and Chris Johnson starting on the infield, the final two spots will come down to Matt Downs, Brett Wallace and Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez.

The Astros are settled with Jason Castro and Chris Snyder at catcher (Carlos Corporan and Landon Powell are still in camp) and have to cut one more outfielder, likely from among Justin Ruggiano, Travis Buck or J.B. Shuck.

“We still have a couple of extra position players, but you guys can look at it and take your best guess,” Luhnow said. “We’re still going to use all our available time to figure it out. As we’re making decisions, we’re being quick about letting players know they’re not longer in the mix. Anybody that’s still in the club is still in the mix.”

Remaining players in Astros camp (non-roster players in italics):

Pitchers –Fernando Abad (LHP), David Carpenter, Rhiner Cruz, Sergio Escalona (LHP), J.A. Happ (LHP), Lucas Harrell, Livan Hernandez, Wilton Lopez, Jordan Lyles, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Fernando Rodriguez, Wandy Rodriguez (LHP), Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland, Wesley Wright (LHP).

Catchers — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Landon Powell, Chris Snyder.

Infielders — Jose Altuve, Matt Downs, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Jed Lowrie, Brett Wallace.

Outfielders — Brian Bogusevic, Travis Buck, J.D. Martinez, Justin Ruggiano, Jordan Schafer, J.B. Shuck.

Game 24: Astros storm from behind to bolster Wandy

The Astros came from five runs down in the second inning and drilled the Tigers, 14-7, on Tuesday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

Before we get to the breakdown, be sure to check out the Astros notebook, which is chock full of Astros news, including an update on center field Jordan Schafer, what Jed Lowrie is doing to swing the bat so well and how Angel Sanchez is trying his hand in the outfield. And there’s much more.

The big news came earlier in the day when the Astros released veteran pitcher Zach Duke and veteran outfielder Jack Cust after both struggled throughout the spring.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Wandy Rodriguez got off to a very shaky start by giving up five runs in the first two innings and then settled down to finish with four very strong innings against the Tigers. He allowed six hits and five runs and threw a spring-high 90 pitches in six innings, but he got better as the game progressed and retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced.

“I told you the other day, I wanted to go longer in the game and I did it today. I tried to throw everything, my breaking ball, my fastball, my change-up,” Rodriguez said. “I used a lot of my change-up today and threw a lot of good ones today.”

Fernando Abad came into the game and got a big out in the seventh, and Brandon Lyon threw a scoreless inning.

The Astros bashed out 13 hits, including four doubles and two home runs, en route to scoring 14 runs. Jason Castro ripped a two-run double in the second inning and went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Jed Lowrie hit the ball hard once again, including a two-run single to right field from the left side of the plate.

Brian Bogusevic went 2-for-3 with three runs, two RBIs and two walks and hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning for the last of the Astros’ nine unanswered runs after falling behind 5-0. Jose Altuve went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and also walked a pair of times, which is a very good sign.

Brian Bixler came off the bench and launched a long, three-run homer to left field in the eighth inning, giving him three homers in 25 spring at-bats. The other hits belonged to J.B. Shuck, Angel Sanchez, who’s hitting .412, Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson and Jake Goebbert.

The Astros didn’t commit an error and were 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

What went wrong: Rodriguez struggled early, giving up a Brennan Boesch homer in the first and allowing four more runs in the second, including a inside-the-park homer by Austin Jackson. J.B. Shuck couldn’t corral Jackson’s fly ball at the wall and it rolled back towards the infield.

Mills said he is continued to be concerned with the number of runs the Astros are giving up in first innings this year. He said they’ve given up 25 runs in the first inning in 24 games this spring.

“We need to kind of clean that up a little bit,” he said.

Rhiner Cruz’s run of good pitching ended when he gave up a run, a hit, two walks and hit a batter in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh, raising his spring ERA to 8.53. Wilton Lopez allowed two hits and a run in the ninth.

What they said: “The big thing was to see Wandy come back and pitch like he did. He was frustrated with himself when they were able to jump out in front of us with that five-run lead. He wasn’t happy with himself, but he saw the guys get right back into the game and Wandy was able to continue and pitch very well.” — Astros manager Brad Mills on Tuesday’s outing by left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.

What’s next: Lucas Harrell will start against the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday in Kissimmee. Harrell is starting in place of Bud Norris, whose start was pushed back two days because of tightness in his triceps. Harrell is trying to win a bullpen spot as a long reliever, but he could start the year in the rotation at Triple-A.

Injury update: Center fielder Jordan Schafer flew to Atlanta on Tuesday to be examined by the same hand specialist he saw when he broke his wrist in 2009. General manager Jeff Luhnow said he’s likely out of game action until the weekend. … Right-hander Bud Norris, who’s dealing with tightness in his right triceps, said Tuesday he hopes to be 100 percent when he starts Friday against the Braves.

There are no photos today, but check back tomorrow. Until then, stay cool.

Game 19: Astros pitchers stifle Nationals

The Astros sent the Nationals to their ninth loss in their last 10 games by riding strong pitching to beat Washington, 5-1, on Friday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium. Here is the boxscore.

Of course, the big news of the day at Astros camp was the announcement that Jimmy Paredes was being sent to Minor League camp to work at second base, meaning Chris Johnson is the likely starter at third base. Here’s a video package of Astros manager Brad Mills and GM Jeff Luhnow talking about the decision.

Here is the breakdown of Friday’s game:

What went right: Pitching, pitching, pitching. The Astros held the Nationals to three hits and didn’t give up a hit until Jayson Werth singled with two outs in the seventh inning off Brett Myers. Starter Bud Norris walked one batter in three hitless innings and Lucas Harrell retired all nine batters he faced. Then there was another strong outing by Myers, who pitched a scoreless innings while working in back-to-back games for the second time this spring. Brandon Lyon also had a scoreless inning.

Astros manager Brad Mills said early Friday he wanted to see the Astros tighten things up with only two weeks left before the start of the regular season, and the team did just that. Houston bashed 12 hits and didn’t make an error. Brian Bixler, starting in the outfield, strengthened his case to make the team by going 2-for-4 with a homer against his former team while starting in the outfield. Chris Johnson also belted a homer.

Carlos Lee also had a pair of hits and an RBI. Jed Lowrie, Travis Buck, Justin Ruggiano, Jose Altuve, Jack Cust and Brett Wallace also had hits. For Cust, his pinch-hit single in the third inning was his first of the spring, snapping an 0-for-24 drought. Cust still isn’t seeing any time in the outfield because of cranky left elbow.

What went wrong: Bud Norris was held to three innings because he woke up Friday with tightness in his triceps, but manager Brad Mills has no concerns and says Norris will be able to make his next start.

Other than a homer allowed by Fernando Abad to Jason Michaels, there’s not much that went wrong for the Astros. The only starting position player to not get a hit was Brian Bogusevic, but he walked and stole a base and scored.

What’s next: The race for the fifth spot in the starting pitching rotation will take center stage when Kyle Weiland takes the mound to face the Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT in Bradenton, Fla. Weiland has allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings in his last two spring starts.

What they said: “He really had a tough time getting his arm loose and had a little tightness in his triceps. So when he went out there, [pitching coach Doug Brocail] was saying, ‘Let’s see if we can get 45 pitches out of you anyway and get some work in and get through three innings.’ Sure enough he did, and he threw the ball really well.” — Astros manager Brad Mills on starting pitcher Bud Norris.

Injury update: CF Jordan Schafer, who sprained his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield on Sunday, said he’s still a few days away from being able to return to the lineup. Schafer took some swings off a tee Friday but had to shut it down when he tried to hit live pitching. … LHP Sergio Escalona has hit a roadblock in his recovery from a hyper extended left elbow suffered swinging a bat early in camp. The Astros said he was set to be examined by a doctor. … OF Jack Cust was originally scheduled to start in the outfield in Friday’s B game, but was moved to designated hitter because of his balky left elbow. Cust has yet to make an appearance in the outfield during a Grapefruit League game this spring, but he came off the bench and delivered a pinch-hit in the third to snap an 0-for-24 spring drought.

Here are the pictures:

Brett Wallace reacts to a ball being hit while playing third base in B game.

Carlos Corporan trots into second base following a double in B game.

Jack Cust stands on deck while Brad Mills watches during a B game.

Ross Seaton fires a pitch in a B game.

Telvin Nash, Josh Zeid and Austin Wates sit in the dugout during B game.

Taking a shot at the 25-man roster

We’re two weeks away from the Astros having to set their 25-man roster in advance of the April 6 season opener against the Rockies at Minute Maid Park. The club still has 47 players in Major League camp following the trade of catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois, so there is still plenty up in the air.

Some things have come into focus, however, such as the catching situation. A lot could happen in two weeks — injuries and trades included — but let’s take a look at what the 25-man roster might look like on Opening Day. Remember, this is based on my observations.

Position player starters are listed in bold:

Catchers (2) — Jason Castro, Chris Snyder.

  • Analysis: This one is pretty much set in stone with Quintero out the door. Unless there’s an injury, these are the catchers.

Infield (6) — Carlos Lee (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Jed Lowrie (SS), Chris Johnson (3B), Matt Downs, Brett Wallace.

  • Analysis: There’s little question about Lee, Altuve and Lowrie starting at this point, but third base isn’t as clear cut. Johnson has had a better spring than Jimmy Paredes, who was slowed by a wrist injury, and appears to be the front-runner. Paredes skipped over Triple-A last year, so it wouldn’t set his career back to start the season at Oklahoma City. Downs should be a lock based on his track record and versatility, but the final spot in the infield is a tough one. Wallace has had a pretty good spring, but has he distinguished himself from Brian Bixler or Joe Thurston? He’s certainly not as versatile, but I think he brings more to the plate offensively. I don’t see Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez sticking. He’s been terrific on defense, but he’s 3-for-25 at the plate. Angel Sanchez has played well once he got healthy, but is it enough?

Outfield (5) — J.D. Martinez (LF), Jordan Schafer (CF), Brian Bogusevic (RF), J.B. Shuck, Travis Buck.

  • Analysis: Despite Bogusevic’s recent struggles at the plate, he still appears to be the favorite to start in right field on Opening Day. There wasn’t much doubt Schafer would start in center, and the trade of Jason Bourgeois cemented that. Schafer, though, is battling a sprained hand injury, but he should be ready to play next week. The race for the two backup outfield spots really opened up following the departure of Bourgeois. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Shuck’s all-around performance and give him a nod. Jack Cust (0-for-24 in Grapefruit League games) still has time to play his way onto the team, but he’s been limited to mostly DH duties because of a balky elbow. None of this bodes well for him. Travis Buck, another left-handed bat, has scorched the ball when healthy. Fernando Martinez has struck out way too much and has an option left, so he could be sent to Oklahoma City. I’m not sure the Astros are prepared to carry four left-handed-hitting outfielders, though. Keep on eye on Bixler, who can play infield and outfield.

Starting rotation (5) — Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Livan Hernandez, Kyle Weiland.

  • Analysis: Rodriguez, Norris and Happ are locks for the rotation, and I think it’s safe to say Hernandez will be added to the 40-man and make the rotation. That leaves three guys for the final spot — Weiland, Zach Duke, Jordan Lyles. Weiland has pitched better than Lyles, who’s only 21 and could benefit from more time in Triple-A. I have Duke winning a spot in the rotation as the long man who has the ability to start, so I’m giving the final rotation spot to Weiland.

Bullpen (7) — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, Fernando Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Abad, Zach Duke.

  • Analysis: It’s safe to say Myers, Lopez (if healthy), Carpenter and Rodriguez are locks to make the team, leaving three spots. I’ve got Lyon making the team because of his experience, and I’m giving a nod to Duke to be the swing man on the pitching staff. The final spot, for me, comes down to the lefties — Abad, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright. Escalona has had only one appearance because of a hyper-extended elbow so he’s behind the others. Abad has quietly had a nice spring and could get a nod over Wright. As far as Rule 5 pick Rhiner Cruz is concerned, he hasn’t shown enough to make the team, and I have Henry Sosa starting the season in Triple-A, along with Lucas Harrell.

Game 8: Duke, Lyles get stretched out

The Astros got a good look at a pair of candidates for the starting rotation Saturday, with veteran left-hander Zach Duke and young right-hander Jordan Lyles both throwing four innings in a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays. You can check out the boxscore here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Both Jordan Lyles and Zach Duke pitched pretty well, with both getting hurt by home runs. Duke gave up a two-run homer to former Pirates teammate Jose Bautista and a solo homer to Travis Snider. Lyles allowed a homer to Bautista, who’s one of the premier sluggers in the game.

Duke brought up a good point after his outing, saying he would have approached the at-bat to Bautista differently in the regular season with first base open. That’s why you can’t get too worked up about Spring Training results this time of year, especially for a veteran guy like Duke. Lyles continues to work with his new curveball grip and said he was happy with those pitches.

The Astros had eight hits from eight different players: George Springer, Matt Downs, J.D. Martinez, Chris Snyder, Chris Johnson, Jonathan Singleton, Joe Thurston and Brad Snyder. Chris Snyder, Singleton and Thurston hit doubles, with Thurston picking up the Astros’ only RBI. Springer scored a run on a balk.

What went wrong: Well, the Astros did give up three home runs, but Jose Bautista — who hit two of them — is going to do that to a lot of teams this year. In fact, he did it to the Astros last year in Toronto.

The Astros didn’t string many hits together and it didn’t help that they hit into two double plays and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Jordan Schafer (.333 spring average), Jack Cust (.000), Brett Wallace (.083) and Marwin Gonzalez (.083) each went 0-for-3. Gonzalez, who has the reputation as a polished defensive player, committed a fielding error.

After a hot start, the Astros’ bats have been stifled three games in a row.

What they said: “The Bautista at-bat, obviously if this were the regular season I would have worked at it a little different knowing I had first base open. The Snider home run, I wanted to go away with a fastball and threw it down the middle and good hitters hit those pitches out. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how it went.” — Astros pitcher Zach Duke on his four-inning outing Saturday.

What’s next: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who led the Astros in wins last year, makes his second start of the spring when the Astros return to Kissimmee to play the Detroit Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday. The game should also mark the spring debut for infielder Angel Sanchez, who injured his back early in camp and has been cleared to play. The Astros have not announced what other pitchers will throw.

Injury update: Non-roster outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Travis Buck are both nursing mild oblique strains and should return to action in a day or two. … Left-hander Sergio Escalona (elbow inflammation) is throwing at 60 to 90 feet and could throw in the bullpen on Sunday or Monday. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) is expected to play Sunday and will be removed from the injury report. … Catcher Humberto Quintero (bulging disk) is catching bullpens.

Here are the photos from Dunedin:

The players stretch upon arriving in Dunedin. Notice the artificial turf infield.

Brad Mills hits some fungos. Or is it fungoes?

Joe Thurston scoops up a ground ball in drills.

Jack Cust prepares for batting practice.

J.D. Martinez works on tagging up from third.

Hard-working hitting coach Mike Barnett.

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.

Morning update from Kissimmee

Good morning from Kissimmee, where the Astros (4-2) play the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT today at Osceola County Stadium. This will be the first of two consecutive games against the Jays, with the Astros going to Dunedin, Fla., tomorrow.

Here’s what’s going on this morning.

— Astros manager Brad Mills pretty much has all his regulars in he starting lineup for the first time today, with Brian Bogusevic at designated hitter. No, the Astros aren’t prepping for the American League. They will use the DH in home games for about another 10 days or so before the pitchers begin to hit. Anyway, Mills is still tinkering with his lineup and said he’s trying to decide where to bat switch-hitting shortstop Jed Lowrie: “I’m trying to get a feel for him,” he said.

— Catcher Humberto Quintero, who had a cortisone injection into his back on Wednesday to help alleviate the pain from a bulging disk, said he feels great. The veteran said he will catch in the bullpen on Saturday and attempt to block balls and throw on Sunday. Look for Quintero to perhaps be ready to play on Monday.

— Infielder Angel Sanchez, who has also been dealing with back pain, is expected to play today, though he’s not in the lineup. 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. “We want the opportunity to get him at-bats and be seen and do the things he’s capable of doing,” Mills said.

Astros lineup:

CF Jordan Schafer

RF Jason Bourgeois

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

DH Brian Bogusevic

SS Jed Lowrie

C Jason Castro

3B Jimmy Paredes

2B Jose Altuve

LHP J.A. Happ

Game 6: Bats go silent against Nationals

The Grapefruit League championship express was derailed Thursday afternoon in an 8-0 loss to the Nationals in Viera, Fla., as the Astros fell to 4-2 this spring. Here’s the boxscore.

For the news of the day, including Astros GM talking about his apology to the Rangers and the Astros announcing they’ll decide Friday whether to have the pistol on their Colt .45s retro uniforms, click here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Jason Castro played in consecutive games for the first time this spring, going 1-for-3 at designated hitter one day after catching five innings. Even when he’s not catching, the Astros are going to take advantage of the DH to try to get him as many at-bats as possible.

Infielder Jimmy Paredes made his spring debut and struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning from the left side of the plate. He’s scheduled to start Friday against the Blue Jays.

In addition to Castro, the only other hits were by Fernando Martinez and Chris Snyder. The Astros also didn’t commit an error once again.

On the the mound, the Astros got scoreless innings from pitchers Henry Villar and Fernando Abad, who drew heaps of praise for manager Brad Mills for the way he was able to make adjustments. Abad was all the rage a year ago after a strong winter ball outing, but he had a terrible spring. Mills said he’s pitching like he did in 2010, which is a great sign for the lefty.

Mills also lauded Lucas Harrell, who threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless, hitless relief. Mills said the ball was exploding out of his hand.

What went wrong: Livan Hernandez allowed three hits, two runs, including a homer, and two walks and struck out two batters in 2 1/3 innings in his second spring start. He left the game after being struck on the right leg by a grounder off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, but the injury isn’t serious. Here’s what Hernandez had to say about it.

Right-hander Henry Sosa was roughed up, allowing seven hits and five runs in two innings.

“It’s a little puzzling because his command is usually pretty good,” Mills said. “We’re going to go back and discuss it and look at the charts and go from there and talk to him a little bit more. Usually, he’s much better of a command-type pitcher than he was today.”

The Astros were held to three hits, with J.B. Shuck, Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Lee each going 0-for-3. When asked about the team’s offensive performance, Mills gave credit to Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who threw four scoreless innings and struck out three batters.

What they said: “I felt good. The wind was crazy and there was the fly ball to right field [Zimmerman’s homer]. More important, I feel better than the first time. The breaking ball is better today and the changeup breaks very good. The sinker is working very good, too. I’m trying to work every day and am getting better and better. I feel good today.” — Astros pitcher Livan Hernandez on his outing.

What’s next: Jimmy Paredes, who started at third base for the Astros the final two months of the season, is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut when the Astros face the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Friday in Kissimmee. Paredes has been bothered by left wrist inflammation since the winter. Left-hander J.A. Happ will start for Houston, making his second appearance of the spring. Brett Myers, Wesley Wright, David Carpenter and Aneury Rodriguez are also scheduled to pitch.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero was diagnosed with a bulging disk, which has been causing discomfort in his right hip. He had a cortisone shot in Houston on Wednesday and was back in Kissimmee playing catch Thursday. He could catch in the bullpen Saturday, but he probably won’t swing a bat until next week. … Shortstop Angel Sanchez (back) is progressing, but remains sidelined. … Infielder Jimmy Paredes (wrist) made his first Spring Training appearance Thursday and struck out swinging from the left side of the plate. He’s scheduled to make his first start Friday against Toronto and will come off the injury update. … Right-hander Livan Hernandez was hit on the right leg by a grounder Thursday and left the game, but he said it isn’t serious.

Here is the day in photos:

Livan Hernandez laughs as he jokes with former teammates across the field.

Astros pitcher Henry Sosa laughs while awaiting stretch.

Carlos Lee plays catch.

No catching gear required for Castro. He was the DH on Thursday.

Brad Mills shows off his arm by throwing BP.

Game 3: Rough day for Astros pitchers

The Astros suffered their first Spring Training loss of the season when the Braves came to Kissimmee and beat them, 10-5, on Monday afternoon. And here I thought they were going to go undefeated. Here’s the boxscore.

Before we get to the breakdown, make sure you read the story of how Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson are pushing each other while they battle for the same spots on the field.

Here’s the breakdown:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The only Astros pitcher who took the mound and didn’t allow a run was Henry Villar, who gave up one hit in his scoreless innings. Starter Jordan Lyles had a crisp second inning after a tough first inning, and Zach Duke stretched out to three innings and pitched out of trouble a few times.

Relief pitcher Xavier Cedeno struck out three batters in one inning of work around giving up a home run to Dan Uggla.

J.B. Shuck (2-for-2), Jed Lowrie (2-for-2) and Matt Downs (2-for-3), who got a start at third base, led the Astros’ 11-hit attack, which was their most in three spring games. Jordan Schaefer, Jason Bourgeois, J.D. Martinez, Chris Snyder and Joe Thurston also had hits. Jonathan Villar walked twice.

Bogusevic stole two bases. The Astros also turned three double plays. Also, the Astros didn’t strike out in 34 at-bats.

There certainly were plenty of teachable moments for Astros manager Brad Mills, who watched his pitchers allow 13 hits and six walks. The Braves had runners on base in all nine innings, allowing his pitching staff and his defense to see plenty of different situations.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Astros pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone, walking six batters. Lyles endured a 27-pitch first inning and wound up only going two innings, allowing four hits, two runs and one walk. Duke gave up three hits, two walks and one run in three innings.

Rhiner Cruz, the Astros’ Rule 5 pick, made his first appearance and didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced, giving up two hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks. Juan Abreu and Enerio Del Rosario each gave up one hit and one run in one inning of work.

Jack Cust went 0-for-3 and Fernando Martinez went 0-for-2, a day after hitting a three-run home run

WHAT THEY SAID: “There was a lot of defensive things we can take from this game because there were guys on and offensively there are some things we can take from the game. Again, I thought we ran the bases pretty good and were aggressive. Getting to the latter innings, the all-important strike kind of eluded us a little bit.” – Astros manager Brad Mills.

WHAT’S NEXT: First baseman Carlos Lee, who sat out the first three games of the spring season to rest his strained right hamstring, will make his Grapefruit League debut for the Astros against the Mets at 12:05 p.m. Tuesday in Kissimmee. Lefty Wandy Rodriguez will make his first start of the spring for the Astros and is scheduled to pitch three innings.

INJURY UPDATE: Catcher Humberto Quintero (back/hip) is still a few days from getting in the lineup. … Third baseman Jimmy Paredes (wrist) and infielder Angel Sanchez (back) continue to progress and are taking batting practice.

Here is the day in photos:

Carlos Lee scoops up a ball at first.

Matt Downs fields a ball at third base.

Livan Hernandez works in the bullpen.

Former Astros CF Michael Bourn walks to the batting cage with Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace.

Carlos Lee jokes around at the cage.

J.D. Martinez awaits batting practice.

Michael Bourn catches up with third base coach Dave Clark.

Michael Bourn and Carlos Lee get reacquainted.

Jack Cust stretches before BP.