Bixler feeling more comfortable in outfield

Bixler feeling more comfortable in outfield

Bixler feeling more comfortable in outfield
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brian Bixler made another start in the outfield Sunday, getting the nod in center field and hitting leadoff in the Astros' split-squad game against the Braves. Bixler has gotten more time in the outfield since Houston traded right-handed-hitting outfielder Jason Bourgeois.

Bixler, a shortstop by trade, hadn't played the outfield prior to 2009, but he appeared in 34 games in the outfield last year with the Nationals. He was claimed off waivers by the Astros in November, but isn't on the 40-man roster.

"I like it out there," he said of the outfield. "I'm comfortable there. I think just playing shortstop and then moving out there, it wasn't as hard as people initially thought."

Five of the Astros' seven outfielders remaining in camp hit from the left side of the plate, with starting left fielder J.D. Martinez and non-roster invitee Justin Ruggiano the only righties. Infielder Matt Downs, a right-handed hitter, can play the outfield along with Bixler.

"It only helps to be able to play all those spots," Bixler said. "I'm just hoping to do my best. It's out of your control, but hopefully it helps you out and makes you more valuable."

Like Downs, Bixler can also catch if needed. He's never caught in a game, but last year in Washington he warmed up pitchers and was considered the emergency catcher. Downs caught in the bullpen this year and could also get behind the plate if Jason Castro and Chris Snyder went down.