Lyles making case for Astros' last spot

Lyles making case for Astros' last spot

Lyles making case for Astros' last spot
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros would prefer to have someone other than Jordan Lyles step up and win the fifth starter's spot, allowing the 20-year-old right-hander to begin the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. But Lyles is off to a strong start in Grapefruit League play and opening eyes through two appearances.

Lyles threw three innings on Saturday against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., allowing three hits and one unearned run. In five innings this spring, he's given up four hits, one walk and no earned runs. Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has been impressed with Lyles' poise.

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"He looked real comfortable, and that's really exciting to see out of a 20-year-old," Arnsberg said. "That's pretty impressive. I had talked to people in the organization, and this was the first two times I had seen him throw. Nothing bothers him."

Arnsberg said Lyles was pounding the strike zone on Saturday but staying out of the middle of the plate, for the most part. He threw strikes early in counts and wasn't intimidated by a Cardinals lineup that included Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

"He threw a couple of real nice changeups, a couple of decent hooks and some real nice sliders," Arnsberg said. "I know his hook in the 'pen has been better than in the last game, but it still was usable for him, and I know any other given day, he's going to have a better hook. I was mostly impressed with his fastball command, pitching out of the center of the plate.

"If he continues to be around the zone and continues to hit on one of his two or both of his breaking balls and his changeup, he can pitch in the big leagues right away."

In his fight for the Astros' No. 5 spot, Lyles is up against Nelson Figueroa, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton. Lyles is a non-roster invitee to camp after going a combined 7-12 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock last season.