Wojciechowski, Hernandez final 2 candidates for rotation job

Wojciechowski, Hernandez final 2 candidates for rotation job

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- And then there were two.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday only two candidates remain for the fifth spot in the starting rotation -- rookie Asher Wojciechowski and veteran Roberto Hernandez. Hinch said Samuel Deduno is "trending towards" being used in a long-relief role, but Hinch wouldn't go as far as to say Deduno has made the club, though.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Buchanan wasting little time in between pitches

Wojciechowski also in 99th percentile, but Fields ranks toward bottom

Buchanan wasting little time in between pitches

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros, like all other teams, are receiving weekly reports from Major League Baseball regarding pace of play this spring. For the week of March 16-22, Houston's pitchers ranked seventh in the Major Leagues in average time between pitches.

Jake Buchanan and Asher Wojciechowski were especially fast when it came to time between pitches. Buchanan was first on the team at 5.9 seconds between pitches, and Wojciechowski was at 6.0, putting both in the 99th percentile among pitchers for the week. Josh Fields (14.7 seconds between pitches) was in the second percentile.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros trade non-roster invitee Johnson to Reds

Astros trade non-roster invitee Johnson to Reds

The Astros traded first baseman Dan Johnson to the Reds on Wednesday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

A nine-year Major League veteran, Johnson appeared in 14 games for Houston this spring as a non-roster invite. He was hitting .158 (3-for-19) with six walks.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Villar day to day; Grossman could return soon

Hinch anticipates both players will 'be fine' following outfield collision

Villar day to day; Grossman could return soon

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros infielder/outfielder Jonathan Villar was held out of Thursday's brief morning workout at Osceola County Stadium after suffering a mild right ankle sprain in an outfield collision Wednesday with teammate Robbie Grossman.

Grossman, who suffered a bruised left quad on the play, was able to work out with the team and could return to game action on Friday, though manager A.J. Hinch said he would likely keep Grossman out another day. Both players are trying to make the club in a reserves role.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Correa, Conger go yard as Astros beat Phillies

Wojciechowski makes strong case to win rotation job with solid start

Correa, Conger go yard as Astros beat Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa powered the Astros to a 7-1 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday at Bright House Field.

Correa, who is the Astros' top prospect, doubled to score a run in the second inning and hit a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning against Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who is competing for the fifth spot in Philadelphia's rotation.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Check out his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wojciechowski makes strong bid for rotation job

Wojciechowski makes strong bid for rotation job

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With another strong performance under his belt, Astros rookie right-hander Asher Wojciechowski is making a serious push for a spot in the starting rotation.

Wojciechowski helped his chances of winning the final spot in the rotation by allowing one run and four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of Wednesday's 7-1 win over the Phillies at Bright House Field. He's competing with Roberto Hernandez and Samuel Deduno, who threw two scoreless innings in relief.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Singleton not worried about securing roster spot

Singleton not worried about securing roster spot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- He's been considered a key piece in how the Astros will determine the shape of their roster since the start of camp, and with only a week remaining before the club leaves Florida, first baseman Jon Singleton believes he's in a good spot.

After going 0-for-4 in Wednesday's 7-1 win over the Phillies at Bright House field, Singleton's batting average fell to .244 (10-for-41) with no homers and four RBIs. He's getting plenty of chances at first base, where the Astros have options with Chris Carter and perhaps Evan Gattis capable of starting if he doesn't make the club.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

A teenager asked Jason Castro to prom by mistake

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A teenager asked Jason Castro to prom by mistake

Remember what it was like to be a teen? (Unless you are still a teen, in which case, please explain Kik to us.) Before you know it, it's time to ask someone to prom. Since this is the Internet Age, the more spectacular your prom-posal, the better. And if you can involve an MLB star, you definitely score extra points.

Or, you know what? Why not just ask a professional baseball player to be your date in the first place?

Continue Reading on Cut4

Fields to play catch, but staying off mound for now

Fields to play catch, but staying off mound for now

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Josh Fields won't throw off the mound for the next few days after leaving Monday's game against the Braves with a right groin strain, manager A.J. Hinch said on Wednesday.

Hinch hadn't seen Fields since he passed him Tuesday morning at the complex in Kissimmee when Hinch was on his way Port St. Lucie. Fields didn't make the trip on Tuesday for Wednesday's game against the Phillies in Clearwater because he wasn't going to pitch.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' bats come through behind McHugh

Righty fans seven; Marisnick complements Valbuena's two-hit day with homer

Astros' bats come through behind McHugh

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright continued his hot month at the plate with a two-run homer off former teammate Collin McHugh on Tuesday in the Mets' 4-3 loss to the Astros at Tradition Field.

Wright's drive in the third inning was one of only two hits the Mets mustered all day, and both came off McHugh, who struck out seven in five innings. McHugh's Mets counterpart, fifth starter Dillon Gee, worked four scoreless innings.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rasmus gaining comfort re-learning left field

Natural center fielder boosting value to club with reps at his rookie position

Rasmus gaining comfort re-learning left field

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It's been six years since Colby Rasmus played left field in a Major League game. That was during his rookie season in 2009, when he appeared in only seven games in left for the Cardinals. Rasmus has been primarily a center fielder since, but the Astros have asked him this spring to get reacquainted with left field.

Rasmus, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Astros over the offseason, is taking it slow as he gets used to seeing the ball fly off the bat from a different angle. The Astros will play him in both left and center this year, but they're focusing on left in the spring because of his lack of experience there.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McHugh champing at bit to follow up breakout year

Right-hander trying to sharpen command of changeup as season draws near

McHugh champing at bit to follow up breakout year

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The regular season can't come soon enough for Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

"I'm ready, man. I'm excited," McHugh said. "We've gotten through almost five weeks of camp at this point, and all of us are itching to get to Houston and get some games started and hit the ground running."

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Defensive versatility Villar's best chance at spot

With better options at shortstop, Astros ask speedy infielder to learn new positions

Defensive versatility Villar's best chance at spot

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros' Jonathan Villar has put himself squarely in the mix to break camp with the team due to his performance so far on both sides of the ball. The Astros are giving Villar, a shortstop by trade, a look at third base and second base, as well as even center field.

If he's going to make the club in a backup role, Villar must prove he can do more than just play shortstop, where he started on Opening Day last year, with mixed results. The Astros signed Jed Lowrie to a three-year deal during the offseason and have top prospect Carlos Correa closing in on the Majors, so Villar's window to start at shortstop in Houston has essentially closed.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' next spring home on target for 2017 debut

Owner shares update on construction of shared facility before board meeting

Astros' next spring home on target for 2017 debut

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Astros owner Jim Crane and about two dozen of his ownership partners joined club president of business operations Reid Ryan at Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Mets at Tradition Field, which is a short drive from Crane's Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Fla.

On Tuesday night, Crane and his board of directors were scheduled to hold a quarterly meeting in which general manager Jeff Luhnow was slated to give an overview of the club. Astros manager A.J. Hinch and the coaching staff were spending the night at the Floridian as well.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feldman still has more to work on after tough outing

Right-hander struggles with command in loss to Braves

Feldman still has more to work on after tough outing

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- If the Braves didn't do enough damage against Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman on Monday at Osceola County Stadium, the veteran right-hander did a good job of beating himself up.

Feldman, making his third start in Grapefruit League play, was rocked for seven hits, two walks and five earned runs in three innings of the Braves' 14-10 win. He said he struggled with his command, and his frustration was evident on the mound at several points.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

On the Cusp: Houston Astros

Appel, Santana highlight list of prospects who could contribute this season

On the Cusp: Houston Astros

Over the past few years the Astros have shaped their organization around young, projectable players obtained in the First-Year Player Draft or via trades.

This offseason, the club traded some highly regarded young talent to improve the offense and pitching with more seasoned veterans. Still, there are prospects remaining in the Top 30 rankings that could assist if injuries strike or poor performances occur.

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Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis homers after Feldman's tough outing vs. Braves

Right-hander allows five runs over three innings in third spring start

Gattis homers after Feldman's tough outing vs. Braves

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Andrelton Simmons drove in four runs, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the first inning and added a two-run double in the third, to send the Braves to an early five-run lead and a 14-10 victory over the Astros on Monday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium.

Astros starter Scott Feldman struggled in his three innings of work, allowing seven hits, five runs and two walks in three innings. He allowed two runs in the first, stranding the bases loaded, and worked a 1-2-3 second before the Braves tagged him with three runs in the fifth.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fields leaves game vs. Braves with right groin strain

Right-hander to be re-evaluated on Tuesday

Fields leaves game vs. Braves with right groin strain

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros relief pitcher Josh Fields was removed from Monday's game against the Braves after recording one out in the seventh inning with a right groin strain.

Manager A.J. Hinch said Fields' groin tightened up on him on the pitch prior to his removal from the game, and Hinch pulled him for precautionary reasons. He said Fields would be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Keuchel takes part in fantasy mock draft

Keuchel takes part in fantasy mock draft

Here at MLB.com, we have plenty of fantasy baseball expertise. But no one can dispute that the Major League players whom we analyze have their own level of knowledge. Knowing this, we decided to solicit advice from them about how to build the perfect fantasy team. The result is the first ever -- that we know of -- players-only fantasy mock draft.

Ten players with an interest in fantasy baseball agreed to take part in a three-round mock draft with the help of MLB.com reporters, who relayed picks across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. Reporting done by Adam McCalvy, Rhett Bollinger, Alden Gonzalez, Mark Bowman, Jane Lee, Brittany Ghiroli, Steve Gilbert, Brian McTaggart and Joe Frisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Deduno's chances of making roster increasing

Right-hander remains a candidate for fifth starter after latest moves

Deduno's chances of making roster increasing

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- As the Astros continue to whittle down their roster in advance of the season opener against the Indians in two weeks, veteran right-hander Samuel Deduno's chances of making the club appear to be on the rise.

Deduno, who is out of options, is one of three remaining candidates for the No. 5 spot in the starting pitching rotation, joining Asher Wojciechowski and veteran Roberto Hernandez, but he's the only one of those three who can pitch in the bullpen.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Straily sent to Minors; Appel and Aplin reassigned

Competition for final spot in Astros rotation down to three candidates

Straily sent to Minors; Appel and Aplin reassigned

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The battle for the fifth spot in the Astros' starting rotation is a three-man race after right-hander Dan Straily, brought to Houston in a trade with the Cubs in January, was among three players sent down from Major League camp on Monday morning.

Straily was optioned to the Minor Leagues, and right-hander Mark Appel and outfielder Andrew Aplin were reassigned, leaving the Astros with 41 players in camp two weeks shy of Opening Day.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Altuve, Springer to push Astros' running game

Club looks to mix power with savvy basestealing

Altuve, Springer to push Astros' running game

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros figure to hit a lot a home runs and strike out a lot this year, which is the product of having some free swingers with raw power. That doesn't mean the club won't try to force the issue on the bases, either.

With Jose Altuve, who led the American League in stolen bases last year, and George Springer, who stole 45 bases in the Minor Leagues in 2013, atop the batting order, the Astros have some guys that can run, too. And manager A.J. Hinch said taking extra bases -- not necessarily stealing bases -- will be a big part of the Astros' DNA.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros' outburst backs strong outing for Hernandez

Carter homers, Villar drives in three to pace Houston's 14-run effort

Astros' outburst backs strong outing for Hernandez

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Chris Carter and Colby Rasmus each blasted their second home runs of the spring as the Astros rode the strong pitching of starter Roberto Hernandez and an offensive outburst to beat the Pirates, 14-2, on Sunday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton worked his longest outing of the spring and wound up getting rocked for nine hits, including a pair of home runs and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. He enjoyed a 1-2-3 first inning before coming unraveled in the second inning.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hinch juggling pitchers to get everyone work

Manager getting creative to give bullen hopefuls game action

Hinch juggling pitchers to get everyone work

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With 20 healthy pitchers in camp and two weeks remaining before the deadline to have the 25-man roster set, Astros manager A.J. Hinch has been getting creative to make sure everyone gets their work in.

Hinch is giving those pitchers who are still on the bubble to make the club the chance to work in Grapefruit League games, while those with spots sewn up are pitching on the back fields.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Despite setbacks, Oberholtzer still on track for season

Lefty starter coming back from injury, illness

Despite setbacks, Oberholtzer still on track for season

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, who's been slowed by a mild lat strain and then a bout with an illness, returned to the mound Sunday when he threw 35 pitches in the bullpen. The next step for Oberholtzer will be in pitching in a Minor League game on Wednesday.

The setback won't hamper Oberholtzer's ability to be ready for the start of the season because he'll still have enough time to get into a couple of Grapefruit League games. The lefty is penciled in as the club's No. 4 starter.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hinch likes idea of Altuve, Springer at top of lineup

Reigning AL batting champ hit leadoff 78 times in 2014

Hinch likes idea of Altuve, Springer at top of lineup

TAMPA, Fla. -- While manager A.J. Hinch continues to tinker with different lineup combinations, he spoke Saturday about the benefits of having All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve bat leadoff and high-flying right fielder George Springer hit behind him in the No. 2 hole.

Of course, the best argument for having Altuve and Springer hit at the top of the lineup is they would get maximum plate appearances. They hit first and second against the Yankees on Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Appel dazzles in three-inning stint vs. Yankees

Former No. 1 pick tosses hitless relief with two strikeouts

Appel dazzles in three-inning stint vs. Yankees

TAMPA, Fla. -- Who cares that it's Spring Training? Getting the chance to take the ball and face the New York Yankees would be a thrill for any young pitcher, and Astros prospect Mark Appel reveled in that opportunity Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.

Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, not only pitched against the Yankees, but did so very well in his first Grapefruit League outing since Monday. He threw three hitless innings, allowing only one walk while striking out a pair of batters.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Carter's first spring homer backs strong Keuchel outing

Left-hander holds Yankees scoreless over 4 1/3 innings

Carter's first spring homer backs strong Keuchel outing

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jake Cave lifted a game-winning sacrifice fly as the Yankees rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, posting a 3-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Astros on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Eddy Rodriguez's RBI single drove in the first run against losing pitcher Will Harris, and a throwing error on the play allowed Aaron Judge to score the tying run before Cave's fly ball to right field drove in pinch-runner Slade Heathcott.

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Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.