Norris shaky in start vs. Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Bud Norris, a candidate for the Opening Day start, allowed four runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings Tuesday afternoon against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.

Norris surrendered a two-out, two-run blast to Kevin Kouzmanoff in the third inning. Of his 63 pitches, 40 were for strikes. He struck out one and didn't walk a batter.

Other than building his pitch count, Norris worked on both his two-seam fastball and changeup. Kouzmanoff hit one of his few sliders for the home run.

"It went pretty well," Norris said. "You're just trying to extend yourself these last couple of starts. I threw the ball really well. I felt good out there -- getting stronger, getting that pitch count up there. I'm still working on some things from the stretch, but I'm excited with the way I felt and I just want to keep building up on that strength."

It marked his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game since March 1 against the Cardinals when he allowed two runs on two hits over three innings. Norris also went two innings on Feb. 24 against the Mets, giving up one run on two hits. He threw 75 pitches in a simulated game this past Wednesday.

Entering his fourth full Major League season, Norris, 28, hopes to build off a 7-13 record and 4.65 ERA in 29 starts over 168 1/3 innings in 2012.

"[Simulated] games are a little bit different," Norris said. "Obviously the adrenaline's not there as much, and it's not game-like with the real umpires behind the plate. That went pretty well for me, and I'm just trying to wind down here with two weeks left and take it day-by-day."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.