Astros swinging hot bats early in spring slate

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With pitchers often focusing on spotting their fastballs and changing speeds early during Spring Training, it's not uncommon for hitters to take advantage of the lack of breaking stuff being thrown.

Even so, Astros hitting coach John Mallee has been happy with way his club has swung the bat during the first week of spring games. Houston entered Friday's game against the Cardinals hitting .316 (77-for-244) as a team in seven games.

"I'm very pleased with that," Mallee said. "There's a lot of very good young, talented hitters. Early in the spring, the pitchers are trying to get their locations down and working on different pitches. Maybe in certain counts they wouldn't throw a certain pitch [in the regular season], but they're doing that here.

"I'm not going to say it's easier as a hitter, because the hitters, too, are trying to get their timing. I think it works back and forth. Later on, as we get into the spring, you'll see the pitchers will use more of the repertoire that they're going to use during the season and the approach of hitters is going to be the same. They're trying to get locked in and how they're going to approach a certain guy on a certain day."