Results tagged ‘ Tag’s Lines ’

Game 9: Astros play long ball again

What happened: J.D. Martinez and Carlos Pena each hit their first homers of the spring to lead the Astros to a 6-5 win over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at windy Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: It takes 1B/DH Carlos Pena a little bit of time to get comfortable at the plate. Pena certainly appeared to be in a comfort zone when he hit his first homer of the spring in the first inning, the only hit in a 1-for-3 day that raised his spring batting average to .214.

“Sometimes you get out there and it feels like an alien planet when you’re in the box in a game situation,” he said. “I’ve had enough experience to understand I need to be patient and keep on working on the process and the results will take care of themselves.

“It definitely felt good to get one today and I thought my timing was pretty good, my contact was pretty good and it ended up going over the fence. I’m happy with the type of move I made on it and the contact and the way everything clicked in that particular swing.”

What we learned II: Getting a couple of hits, including a home runs, can do wonders for players in the spring, even if the stats really don’t mean much. RF J.D. Martinez has retooled his swing as he tries to make the club, and he went 2-for-3 with a long homer to left-center – his first of the spring.

“It’s Spring Training and you want to get in those situations where you go up there and hit the ball hard,” he said. “You don’t care about anything else. That’s all I can control, and everybody did a great job in front of me. [Justin] Maxwell hit that double and Fernando [Martinez] drove him in and it started a rally. Hitting’s contagious.”

What else: RHP Philip Humber was much sharper in his second outing of the spring, working three innings in relief and allowing two hits and one run while striking out three batters.

“I threw more strikes and I was behind the ball a little bit better,” Humber said. “All in all, a step in the right direction. It’ s not where I want to be yet, but definitely an improvement over that first one. That’s what you want.”

What went wrong: The Astros made a season-high four errors – 2B Marwin Gonzalez, C Jason Jaramillo, SS Tyler Greene, CF George Springer. Gonzalez and Springer both made errors in the seventh inning that led to three unearned runs and prompted manager Bo Porter to huddle the infield for a talk.

“When you’re up by four runs in the seventh inning, at that point you want to play outs,” he told the team. “You don’t want to do anything drastic with the baseball, you want to take the outs they give you and take it one out at a time and go ahead and secure the game. I don’t think that we took care of the baseball in that inning, and that allowed them to get back into the ballgame.”

What they said: “I love the fact our starters are all throwing strikes. They’re down in the strike zone and if you look at the reports, they’re getting a lot of ground balls, which is huge for our defense.” – Astros manager Bo Porter.

What’s next: RHP John Ely, who pitched two innings in relief in his only spring outing Feb. 26, gets the starts for Houston when it travels to Bradenton, Fla., to face the Pirates at 12:05 p.m. CT on Sunday. Ely is competing for a spot in the rotation. Also scheduled to pitch are Jordan Lyles, Sergio Escalona, Sam Demel, Chia-Jen Lo and Jose Valdez.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (ankle sprain) is close to appearing in his first game. … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) has returned to camp and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

Tweets of the day:

Links of the day: Astros notebook has Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s thoughts on Porter taking over the Astros. Porter played for Gonzalez in the Minor Leagues. We also catch up with Chris Johnson of the Braves in his first trip to Kissimmee since being traded by the Astros, and much more.

The day in pictures:

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Fred McGriff shares a laugh with Fredi Gonzalez, Bo Porter and Enos Cabell

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Fredi Gonzalez catches up with Bo Porter, who he managed in Triple-A in 2002

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Fredi Gonzalez gets animated with Bo Porter and Fred McGriff

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Nate Freiman

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Marwin Gonzalez from the left side

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Peter Gammons, Bo Porter and Dan Uggla

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Brett Wallace catches up with friend and former teammate, Chris Johnson

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My man Jose Cruz can still hit I bet

Game 8: Astros slug three homers, rally to tie Cards

What happened: The Astros came from four runs down, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, to earn their second tie of the spring, 8-8, against the Cardinals on Friday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

“Just a great job by the whole group, just coming back and battling, battling, battling and getting into hitter’s counts and putting good swings on the ball,” manager Bo Porter said.

More on Porter in this video:

What we learned: OF George Springer has a hot bat. Literally. Springer, who homered twice earlier in the week, didn’t go deep Friday, but he gave his bat to OF Chris Carter and told him he’d hit a home run. Carter blasted a long blast to left field in the fifth, finally showing the kind of power we’d heard about when he came over from Oakland.

“It feels good to finally square up a ball,” Carter said. “The last few at-bats I’ve been struggling making solid contact. You want to impress early and quick, but you have to stick with what you’re doing.”

What we learned II: Porter is going to have some tough roster decisions to make. IF Brandon Laird is having a terrific spring and slugged his second homer on Friday — one day after hitting a grand slam — and OF Brandon Barnes homered for the second time this spring. Both are battling for the few roster spots, but they’re certainly helping their cause.

“As camp goes along, you want to make it to the end of camp and have tough decisions,” Porter said. “When you come into camp and have competition and one guys runs away with it, you say to yourself, ‘Wow, we must not have too much depth.’ The fact we have great competition for the roster spots going on in camp, lets us know from an organizational standpoint we have a lot of depth.”

What else: RHP Jose Veras, in his final performance before leaving for the World Baseball Classic, had a 1-2-3 fourth inning with two strikeouts. … The Astros bashed out 12 more hitters with a pair of catchers — Rene Garcia and Jason Jaramillo — having two hits apiece. … RHP Bud Norris looked strong, allowing two runs and two hits in three innings, but he had a pair of 1-2-3 innings. … Josh Zeid, Rhiner Cruz and Josh Fields each threw a scoreless, hitless inning.

What went wrong: For the second day in a row, an error opened the door for the opposition. The Cardinals scored two unearned runs in the fifth after a Brett Wallace error, and a Jake Elmore error at shortstop in the sixth led to three unearned runs with Paul Clemens on the mound.

“From a standpoint of it being Spring Training, these are teachable moments and you stress it to the ballplayers that cannot give up extra outs,” Porter said. “When get the ball, handle the ball, take care of the ball. The more men that get on base, the more opportunities they have to score.”

What they said: “I felt a lot better. It’s great to get your legs under you and you go out and compete. I’m still working on some things, just trying to stay back over the rubber and trying to find my delivery and all that. I felt good and I’m excited to keep it going.” — RHP Bud Norris on his second spring outing.

What’s next: LHP Dallas Keuchel gets his first start of the spring when the Astros face the Braves at Osceola County Stadium at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday. Keuchel has a relief appearance under his belt, but he’s competing for a spot in the rotation. RHP Philip Humber will throw in the game as well as the Astros try to divvy up starts.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (ankle) continues to ease closer to game action. … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) is out until early April.

Links of the day: Astros OF J.D. Martinez admits he put too much pressure on himself last year. Now, he’s trying to retool his swing and win a spot on the club. The Astros notebook has hitting coach John Mallee’s thoughts on the team’s hot start at the plate, Bo Porter talking about roster construction and RHP Paul Clemens’ thoughts on his career.

Tweet of the day:

The day in photos:

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Vince Coleman and Bo Porter

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Jimmy Paredes and Bo Porter

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Delino DeShields Jr.

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Tyler Greene catches up with old teammate

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Robbie Grossman, Jimmy Paredes, George Springer and Vince Coleman

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Dave Clark gets animated

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Rick Ankiel and Tyler Greene

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Jose Altuve

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Old friend J.R. Towles is with the Cardinals

Game 4: Wallace, Castro stay hot in win over Tigers

What happened:  The split-squad Astros got a two-run homer from Jason Castro — his second in as many games — and a solo shot from Brett Wallace to pull away from the Tigers for a 9-4 win on Tuesday afternoon at rainy Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

For the game story and boxcore on the Astros’ 7-2 split-squad loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte, click here.

What we learned: C Jason Castro feels as good at the plate as he has in a long time, going 2-for-2. He homered to left-center field in his first at-bat and later singled, also to the opposite field. He has two homers in two games this spring. He’s made a minor adjustment to allow him to stay on the ball a little bit more and drive it the other way.

“I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well and been getting some good pitches, trying to be aggressive,” he said. “I know it’s early in spring and guys throw a lot of fastballs right now. I’m trying to take advantage of that and it’s been good so far. The swing feels really good and I think I’m seeing the ball well. So that’s part of it. That’s what I’m looking for right now is comfort-ability and getting back in the rhythm of hitting and facing live pitching.”

What we learned II: The work IF Brett Wallace put in during the winter with hitting coach John Mallee is paying quick dividends. Wallace went 3-for-4 with a long homer to center field in the win while starting at third base.

“The ball I hit to center was a changeup, and that was something we worked on, being able to stay on my legs and if it’s not a fastball down the middle that I won’t come out of them and I will stay back on them,” Wallace said. “It’s definitely something we worked on and it’s encouraging and I just have to try to repeat it over and over.”

What else: SS Tyler Greene did a nice job at top of the lineup with two walks. Porter said when you’re not getting hits you sometimes get anxious, but it was a good sign for him to expand the zone and take his walks. … RHP John Ely, who’s battling for a starting spot, allowed a two-run homer in the fourth before coming back with a clean fifth. … OF Michael Burgess, who was taken in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, made a nice diving catch in foul territory to end the game. … RHP Josh Fields got on the mound for the first time, closing out the eighth and finishing the Tigers off in the ninth. … OF Robbie Grossman and OF Trevor Crowe each had two-run extra-base hits in the fifth.

What went wrong: Wallace, starting at third base, made a fielding error in the fifth inning that led to a run, but manager Bo Porter shrugged it off: “I think he knocked in more than he let in.”… Minor League IF Nolan Fontana had a throwing error.

What they said: “From a hitter standpoint, this is the time of year that you really want to work  on being on time with the fastball. Castro laid out some great swings, [Rick] Ankiel laid out some good swings, Wallace swung the bat well today. From a pitching standpoint, our pitchers did a great job, especially the starters [Erik] Bedard and Ely, of locating their fastballs well,” — Astros manager Bo Porter.

Here’s Erik Bedard, Brett Wallace, Jason Castro and Bo Porter on the game:

What’s next: RHP Alex White, acquired from the Rockies in a trade for Wilton Lopez in December, will make his first start of the season for the Astros when they travel to Dunedin, Fla., to meet the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT Wednesday. He was 2-9 with a 5.51 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) for Colorado last year.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (sprained ankle) has thrown in the bullpen and could face live pitching soon. . … C Max Stassi (oblique) was scheduled to travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to get an MRI and see a specialist about a possible sports hernia.

Links of the day: Jose Martinez, who was MVP at Double-A Corpus Christi last year, has overcame an unthinkable tragedy and has taken advantage of his second chance with the Astros. Here’s video of Martinez talking about his struggles:

The Astros notebook has Ambriz and Stassi talking about their injuries, prospects Nolan Fontana and Mike Foltynewicz on their appearance on the spring roster, Wallace on his comfort level at third base, plus much more.

The day in photos

Bud Norris.

My man Bud Norris.

Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve.

Brett Wallace and Michael Burgess.

Brett Wallace and Michael Burgess.

Delino DeShields.

Delino DeShields.

Brett Wallace.

Brett Wallace.

Dallas Keuchel.

Dallas Keuchel.

Nolan Fontana.

Nolan Fontana.

Nolan Fontana and Robbie Grossman.

Max Stassi and Robbie Grossman.

Maxwell first pick for Astros intrasquad

The Astros on Wednesday morning held a draft for Thursday’s intrasquad game with Minor League instructor Morgan Ensberg, who will be coaching against Adam Everett, taking outfielder Justin Maxwell with the No. 1 overall pick. The Astros will split up for an intra-squad game at 12 noon CT Thursday at Osceola County Stadium.

Here’s what else is new Wednesday:

  • Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez issued a no comment through a team spokesman Wednesday morning one day after an ESPN reported linked him to a South Florida clinic that’s been connected to performance-enhancing drugs. Astros manager Bo Porter told reporters Wednesday he spoke to Martinez prior to the team’s morning workout at Osceola County Stadium. Porter said Martinez would continue to be involved in camp activities, and he was on the field Wednesday.
  • Porter said he’s working to get legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry to be at his managerial debut March 31 at Minute Maid Park. He said Fry follows everything that goes on with the Astros with “great anticipation.” Porter played football at Iowa under Fry.
  • Porter said he expects Matt Dominguez to get the bulk of the time at third base, which certainly isn’t a surprise. He said Brett Wallace will get a look at third base, but he’ll primarily play first. Brandon Laird and Marwin Gonzalez can also play third base.
  • Today is Roger Clemens‘ final day in camp, and he could throw live batting practice. He showed up to the facility wearing his baseball pants, so stay tuned.

     

Astros hitters face live pitching as Clemens arrives

The big news at Astros camp was the arrival of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, who will be a frequent visitor to camp this year. The Astros have invited him back to help tutor their young pitchers, and he rolled up his sleeves and went to work on Sunday by watching pitchers throw live batting practice and offering advice to several young arms.

“Obviously, when someone like Roger is talking, you’re a sponge,” pitcher John Ely said.

Also, Astros owner Jim Crane had the thrill of a lifetime when he got the chance to play golf with both President Obama and Tiger Woods. Crane spoke to MLB.com about his great day.

Meanwhile, Sunday marked the first day hitters faced live pitching, and most of the hitters used the time to simply track pitches — watch them thrown into the catcher’s mitt — more than trying to hit, though there were a few who took some hacks on a cold day.

“I took a swing and squared up a line drive up the middle,” Carlos Pena said. “At this stage, you want to make sure you’re ready to hit, and you try to track the pitches and follow them into the glove. But you want to make sure you’re in good position to hit, and then if that’s what you want, go ahead and take a swing.”

The chilly temperatures at camp Sunday were a good primer for those April road games in Seattle, manager Bo Porter said. The skipper said the first day of live batting practice was more for the pitchers than anything else.

“It’s was good for the pitchers to get out of the bullpen and get a hitter in the batter’s box and get closer and closer to starting games here,” Porter said. “If you’re seeing the ball live and seeing ball come out of the pitcher hand – the weather was why some guys decided to track – but at the same time I think it was overall good.”

Here is the day in pictures:

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

A long line of fans waits for a Roger Clemens autograph.

Jason Castro and Roger Clemens talks.

Jason Castro and Roger Clemens talk.

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

Roger Clemens signs autographs.

Marwin Gonzalez gets ready to hit.

Marwin Gonzalez gets ready to hit.

Carlos Pena and Roger Clemens hug.

Carlos Pena and Roger Clemens hug.

Doug Brocail and Roger Clemens.

Doug Brocail and Roger Clemens.

Jeff Luhnow and Roger Clemens.

Jeff Luhnow and Roger Clemens.

Brad Peacock warms up in bullpen.

Brad Peacock warms up in bullpen.

Bud Norris plays catch.

Bud Norris plays catch.

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Roger Clemens meets with the media Sunday.

Rain cuts short day, but not the fun

It drizzled on and off Thursday morning, but the Astros still managed to get in a full workout on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium. But just as the pitchers and catchers were gathering for their post-workout handshakes, manager Bo Porter sprung a surprise.

He order the players into the clubhouse and up the stairs, where he had them watch a video of pitcher fielding practice performed correctly. The video ended with the final three outs of last year’s perfect game thrown by Philip Humber, who was honored earlier in the day by Porter with a sparkling cider toast, complete with a phone call from catcher A.J. Pierzynski from Arizona.

“We made an adjustment with the shaking hands, and we moved that indoors and we had a little video set aside for the guys,” Porter said. “The last three outs of the video was Humber’s last three outs of his perfect game, and then we shook hands.”

Humber was taken back with all the attention.

“It was good to do something like that,” he said of the morning toast. “Nothing to do with me, but to have something for the team to come together over. I thought it was a really good deal. I wasn’t expecting it. It was fun for everybody.”

And don’t miss today’s feature on Jason Castro, who’s hoping to grow defensively while working with veteran catching instructor Jeff Murphy.

Thursday’s Astros notebook is full of information, including Porter’s thoughts on not having names on the backs of jersey this spring, how the team celebrated Humber’s perfect game from a year ago and why Edgar Gonzalez drove 34 hours to Spring Training. And much, much more.

Some other news from Thursday:

  • Outfielder Jimmy Paredes was the latest position to report to camp on Thursday. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said catcher Carlos Perez and infielder Jose Martinez, who had been held up on visa issues, were both expected to arrive on camp on time. Position players are scheduled to report Friday in advance of Saturday’s first full-squad workout.
  • Right-hander Hector Ambriz rolled his ankle during a drill Thursday and had to get the ankle taped up. Manager Bo Porter said it wasn’t serious. Meanwhile, catcher Max Stassi was held out of workouts again Thursday because of strained oblique, but it’s also minor and he could return to action any day.
  • Roger Clemens is expected to be in camp at some point this weekend. General manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t know if the Rocket would working with pitchers beginning Saturday or Sunday, but he’ll soon be back in Kissimmee. Morgan Ensberg, the former Astros MVP who’s returning to the club as a Minor League coach, arrived in town Thursday.

Here is the day in photos:

Jose Altuve signs an autograph.

Jose Altuve signs an autograph.

J.D. Martinez and Marwin Gonzalez head to hitting coaches.

J.D. Martinez and Marwin Gonzalez head to hitting cages.

Xavier Cedeno rocks and fires.

Xavier Cedeno rocks and fires.

Tony DeFrancesco sets the guys straight.

Tony DeFrancesco sets the guys straight.

Bullpen coach Dennis Martinez watches Kevin Chapman throw.

Bullpen coach Dennis Martinez watches Kevin Chapman throw.

Catching instructor Jeff Murphy works with Jason Castro.

Catching instructor Jeff Murphy works with Jason Castro.

Jimmy Paredes is all smiles as he arrives.

Jimmy Paredes is all smiles as he arrives.

Jason Castro catches a bullpen.

Jason Castro catches a bullpen.

Max Stassi, out with an oblique, watches the catchers.

Max Stassi, out with an oblique, watches the catchers.

Delino DeShields Jr. talks to a fan while he signs.

Delino DeShields Jr. talks to a fan while he signs.

Porter visits with veterans about leadership

Astros manager Bo Porter met with a group of players prior to Wednesday morning’s workout that he wants to take a leadership role on the club this spring. The meeting, which Porter dubbed “Astros Talk,” included Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Jason Jaramillo, Erik Bedard, Bud Norris, Philip Humber, Lucas Harrell, Wesley Wright, Jose Veras and Edgar Gonzalez.

“We talked about leadership, and there’s a reason why I picked those guys,” he said. “Some of those guys have been on other teams where obviously it hasn’t been the situation we have here where we have a lot of young guys, and a lot of times these guys have been on teams and they have been the young guys.

“They now find themselves in a situation they become the older spokesmen. Like I said to them, I want to make sure we’re all on one sheet of music and we understand what leadership is all about and how you can effectively lead. If they had any questions, I wanted to be available for them to answer those questions to make sure we’re on one accord.”

Most baseball names don’t have a captain as in some other sports. The Yankees are one team that has traditionally identified a singular captain. Porter doesn’t plan to do that in Houston. Instead, he’s giving the responsibility of leader the younger players to those with the most service time.

“I explained to them, we’re not looking for one leader,” Porter said. “We’re looking for a group of leaders, because I’m a firm believer that leaders have to exist in every area, every level of the organization if you want the organization to continue to grow and continue to thrive. And the leaders have to develop the next wave of leaders. We’re not looking for one; we’re looking for a group.”

The first injury of camp was reported Wednesday morning when catcher Max Stassi, acquired in last week’s trade with Oakland, was diagnosed with a strained oblique. He will be held out of drills Wednesday.

“We’re going to pull him back a little bit as far as his workload goes,” Porter said. “He kind of tweaked his oblique a little bit.”

Here are a couple of quick morning photos:

Third base coach Dave Trembley is always smiling as he is here talking with Dave Clark and Dennis Martinez.

Third base coach Dave Trembley is always upbeat as he is here talking with Eduardo Perez and Dennis Martinez.

Bud Norris stretches prior to workout.

Bud Norris stretches prior to workout.

New-look Astros kick off a new era

The smell of fresh paint, new carpeting in the clubhouse and sharp new uniforms hanging neatly in the lockers of the players were all reminders these are not your grandfather’s Astros. In fact, they’re pretty far removed from the 2012 Astros.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Osceola County Stadium on Monday morning to shake hands, take physicals and get in a light workout, the Astros cranked up their first Spring Training as an American League club. New manager Bo Porter will have to wait until Tuesday to see the pitchers and catchers hit the field for the first official workout, but the start is near.

“I’m extremely anxious,” Porter said. “You spend your whole offseason waiting for this day to come and now that it’s here, obviously there’s a lot of anticipating of getting with the guys and you can see the excitement in their eyes. We’re just ready to get on the field and get started.”

Right-hander Philip Humber is one of 39 new faces to camp this year after spending last year with the White Sox. The Texas native was thrilled to pull on his No. 59 jersey.

“It’s that time of year when you’ve done everything you need to do to prepare for Spring Training and a new season and you start getting that itch it’s time to start putting everything you’ve done in the offseason to work,” he said. “I’m excited to be here, excited to meet all these new faces and just get started playing baseball.”

Many position players have already reported, well ahead of Friday’s official report date. All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve arrived in Florida on Saturday. Also spotted Monday morning were Brett Wallace, Matt Dominguez, J.D. Martinez, Brandon Barnes, Justin Maxwell, Jake Elmore and Marc Krauss.

“I feel really good, and I wanted to get here a little early to get ready and prepare the right way to star the season,” Altuve said.

Here are some morning pictures:

Sign as you enter the clubhouse.

Sign as you enter the clubhouse.

Worker gets the field ready.

Worker gets the field ready.

Astros manager Bo Porter reports for work.

Astros manager Bo Porter reports for work.

new uniforms hung neatly in lockers.

New uniforms hung neatly in lockers.

Wes Wright unloads a box while talking to Lucas Harrell.

Wes Wright unloads a box while talking to Lucas Harrell.

More motivation for the players, courtesy of Bo Porter.

More motivation for the players, courtesy of Bo Porter.

Catcher Jason Jaramillo emerges from clubhouse.

Catcher Jason Jaramillo emerges from clubhouse.

Jason Castro on his way to the field.

Jason Castro on his way to the field.

Bo Porter talks to the media in the morning.

Bo Porter talks to the media in the morning.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail and pitchers prepare to stretch.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail and pitchers prepare to stretch.

Game 14: Early trouble dooms Norris, Astros

The Astros lost their third consecutive Spring Training game, 6-3, to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at sunny George M. Steinbrenner Field, dropping their Grapefruit League record to 7-7 near the midpoint of the spring season. You can find the boxscore by clicking here.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: How about the relief pitching of Brett Myers? Those who were worried about Myers’ struggles early in the spring needed to remember he’s a veteran who’s working on arm strength as he prepares himself to be the closer. He pitched two innings Saturday for the first time this spring, allowing one hit and no runs and touching 91-92 mph on the radar gun. Astros manager Brad Mills said he would like to get Myers in consecutive games later this spring.

Myers wasn’t the only reliever to pitch well. Left-hander Xavier Cedeno pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning, striking out Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano, and Fernando Rodriguez struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth. Right now, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Rodriguez isn’t on the club when it breaks camp.

The Astros outhit the Yankees (9-7), with left fielder J.D. Martinez going 2-for-4 with a double and third baseman Chris Johnson going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Johnson has done a nice job at the plate as he battles to make the club, and has raised his spring average to .348 with a couple of good swings of the bat Saturday. Martinez has looked strong at the plate all spring.

Jason Bourgeois, J.B. Shuck, Joe Thurston, Marwin Gonzalez (double) and Angel Sanchez each had a hit. Shuck had an RBI triple, and Sanchez came off the bench as a pinch-runner late in the game and subsequently singled to center.

The Astros were errorless once again.

What went wrong: Bud Norris was the second consecutive starter to get roughed up, giving up five hits, five runs and four walks in three innings in only his second Grapefruit League appearance of the spring. Norris needed 31 pitches to get out of the first, an inning which included two hits and two walks., He retired the first two batters he saw in the second before walking Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson and giving up a three-run homer to Robinson Cano on an 0-2 pitch. He threw a clean third inning, pitching around a pair of walks, to finish at 73 pitches.

Rhiner Cruz, a Rule 5 pick from the Mets, hasn’t done much to help his chances of sticking with the club all season, never mind making it through Spring Training. He allowed a home run to Bill Hall — yes, that Bill Hall — in his one inning of work, giving him five earned runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings of work this spring.

At the plate, Jack Cust started at designated hitter and went 0-for-3, dropping him to 0-for-20 this spring. Cust has been limited to a designated hitter role and could be losing his grip on one of the backup outfield spots, especially with the way Travis Buck and J.B. Shuck have swung the bat from the left side.

Brad Snyder, Landon Powell and Brett Wallace each went 0-for-2 at the plate.

What they said: “I thought the guys did a good job of battling back [had the tying run at the plate to end the game]. That’s the second day in a row we got down five runs real early in the game, and it’s tough to come back. You see C.J. with those two doubles and J.D. had a couple of nice at-bats and Shuck smoked that ball [for a triple]. There was a lot of good things, too. We wish Bud would have gotten that 0-2 slider down in the dirt [to Cano], but that three-run bomb, when you look at the score, wound up to be pretty important.” — Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Veteran catcher Humberto Quintero, who’s missed the first two weeks of spring action because of a bulging disk in his back, will make his first start of the Grapefruit League season when the Astros meet the Mets at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday in Kissimmee. Quintero, last year’s starter on Opening Day, is battling to make the club is a backup role. Right-hander Livan Hernandez will start for the Astros.

Injury update: Catcher Humberto Quintero (back) is scheduled to make his first start Sunday. … Left-hander Sergio Escalona (elbow) threw live batting practice Friday to hitters.

In lieu of St. Patrick’s Day, there are no photos today. The photos will return Sunday.

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.

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