Towles, Rodriguez take another step

Towles, Rodriguez take another step

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Catcher J.R. Towles will play in the Astros' game against the Reds on Saturday, after passing a final test on his hamstring during a Class A game on Friday afternoon.

Towles played six innings and had three plate appearances, and while he didn't have to run hard, he was encouraged that his hamstring didn't bother him while he crouched behind the plate. Towles recorded a flyout, a groundout and a walk.

"I took it pretty slow today," Towles said. "I felt good behind the plate. At the plate, I felt good, but I still can't run hard like I normally would."

Towles did some leg exercises in the training room after the game and said he felt some soreness, but on a minimal scale.

"Nothing bad," he said.

The feedback was enough to convince manager Cecil Cooper to insert Towles into the lineup.

"He didn't run 100 percent, but he was OK," Cooper said. "He'll play [Saturday]."

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez threw the opening inning in that Minor League game, tossing 15 pitches with one strikeout. Like Towles, the reports were favorable. Rodriguez, recovering from a strained left oblique, will likely throw three innings in a Triple-A game on Sunday.

Doug Brocail threw 38 pitches over two innings in the Class A game. He allowed four hits and four runs, but only one was earned.

For the veteran right-hander, the outing was just another poor effort in a series of poor outings this spring. Brocail's results in the Minor League game won't count in the official spring stats, but for the record, he's made eight appearances, and only twice has he not given up runs.

"I was all over the place," he said of his outing Friday. "I didn't throw strikes, didn't have quality pitches. I was behind in the count on almost everybody. I'm concerned, because I care. Hopefully, things change come Opening Day and the next 162. That's the important thing."

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