Astros hitters set to face live pitching

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros hitters will get their first look at live pitching during workouts Sunday, when the pitchers will throw to batters with a screen in front of the mound. There will be four days of live batting practice before manager Bo Porter holds an intrasquad game on Thursday.

"I just want the pitchers to make it through safe," Porter said. "That's more pitching practice than live batting practice. Whenever you incorporate screens and the backstops, that's always been tough on the position players. It's more about the pitchers than anything else. It does all those guys good to see a live arm and pick up the velocity on the baseball."

The team will meet with the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday and hold a light workout in advance of Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater. Porter said the real evaluating of the players won't begin for a while.

"Right now I'm honing on guys' workouts," he said. "When you get to the beginning stages of Spring Training and you don't have the competition aspect of another team, you want to watch guys and see how they work. You watch them from a fundamental standpoint and see if anyone needs extra, extra, extra work as far as a particular fundamental."

Porter stressed fundamentals to his club again on Friday, saying that in the American League, teams don't usually bunt until they're behind late in the game. He said it's vital teams get outs on those plays to increase their chances of winning.

"You increase your chances of winning the game when you execute these plays properly," he said. "It puts an emphasis on it, and the players actually understand the significance."