Notes: Lane visits old friends

Notes: Lane visits old friends

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Once Jason Lane had exited Monday's game at Osceola County Stadium, he headed to the home clubhouse to say hello to former teammates and coaches he worked with during his nine years with the Astros organization.

Lane is now a non-roster invitee with the Yankees, as is former Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg. Both made the trip with the Yankees to Kissimmee on Monday, and both spent a large chunk of batting practice exchanging handshakes and hugs with old friends.

"It was nice seeing Lance [Berkman] and some of the other guys, and some of the staff," Lane said. "I feel like I know more staff than players. It's nice to see everyone."

Lane is trying out for a spot in the Yankees' roster as either a first baseman or a backup outfielder, while Ensberg is competing for a backup job solely at first base.

Competition is stiff with every team, but the stacked Yankees lineup is especially difficult to crack, especially as a non-roster invitee. For Lane, who never did solidify himself as a regular outfielder for the Astros, this is familiar territory. He's accustomed to Spring Training pressure.

"This is nothing new," he said. "I'll just get myself ready to play for Opening Day, and I feel like that'll give me a chance to make the team. What it comes down to is I just have to focus on being consistent at the plate. That's what it's going to come down to."

Pence slides: Now that Hunter Pence's stitches have been removed from his left knee, he is cleared to slide. He wasted no time doing so on Monday when he slid into home plate during the Astros' 7-6 loss to the Yankees.

"I slid on the other leg, but that's just random for me," Pence said. "I never know which leg I'm going to slide on."

Pence has a name for the ability to slide with both legs: "Ambi-slidi-dextrous."

Wright's stuff: Manager Cecil Cooper appears to be intrigued by Rule 5 Draft pick Wesley Wright, and the left-hander can expect to see quite a bit of playing time this spring.

The 23-year-old Wright impressed his skipper on Monday by working out of trouble during his one inning of work against the Yankees. At this point, Cooper is assuming that any erratic performances from the lefty has more to do with nerves than lack of ability.

"I think he was nervous," Cooper said. "I think he was more particular about trying to be particular in throwing strikes and not really throwing it. After the first hitter or so, he started to throw the ball a little better."

Cooper purposely inserted veteran catcher Brad Ausmus to work with Wright, and Ausmus gave a favorable report when the inning was complete.

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"Brad said, 'He's got a good arm. He's got good breaking stuff,'" Cooper recalled. "He's just a little nervous. The only way to get past that is to keep running him out there."

Nieve improving: Fernando Nieve will test his left hamstring when he throws off a mound for approximately five minutes on Tuesday.

Nieve first suffered the hamstring injury during the Elite Camp at Minute Maid Park in January, and he aggravated it during a recent intrasquad game prior to the start of Grapefruit League action.

"I feel a lot better now," Nieve said on Monday morning. "They asked me if I could go today, but I told them I needed one more day."

Nieve surmised that the hamstring strain may be directly tied to the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery he underwent last May. The procedure involved taking a tendon from his left leg and putting it into his right elbow, and Nieve suspects the loss of strength in his leg may have led to the injury.

"That might be why it's weak," he said.

In the booth: The Astros' game with the Yankees on Monday was the first of nine that FSN Houston will broadcast this spring. The flagship station originally scheduled to broadcast four exhibition games but recently picked up five more.

Most of the Astros' projected Opening Day lineup started Monday's televised game, and according to Cooper, that was no coincidence.

"The fans deserve a chance to see the guys they're going to see [this season]," Cooper said. "It just so happened, the way it turned out, we had a split squad yesterday, so today was the day we were all going to play. You'll see almost the same thing [Tuesday]."

The following games will be shown on FSN Houston this month: Tuesday vs. Detroit; Thursday vs. Cleveland; Saturday vs. Washington; Thursday, March 13, vs. the Dodgers; Sunday, March 16, vs. the Mets; Saturday, March 22, vs. Cincinnati; and Friday, March 28, vs. Detroit. FSN Houston will use Atlanta's feed on March 23 at Disney to broadcast the road game.

MLB.TV will broadcast four games: Friday at the Yankees, Sunday at the Mets, March 13 vs. the Dodgers and March 13 vs. the Tigers.

Up next: The Astros will host the Tigers on Tuesday at Osceola County Stadium at 12:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Roy Oswalt will take the hill for Houston, while Detroit will counter with lefty Nate Robertson.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.