VIERA, Fla. -- Astros starter Lucas Harrell certainly appears to be over the groin problems that forced him to miss his turn in the rotation a week ago.
Harrell, making his fourth start of the spring, threw four scoreless, hitless innings Saturday against the Nationals, allowing just two walks. The right-hander threw 27 of his 48 pitches for strikes, including a five-pitch first inning in which he didn't throw a ball.
"I definitely felt like I could have gone two or three more [innings]," Harrell said. "I definitely feel like my arm is where it needs to be and my legs are good now, so I'm ready to get back out there now on a consistent basis."
Harrell mixed his pitches quite well and benefited from a couple of nice defensive plays from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who went behind second base to rob Ryan Zimmerman of a hit in the second inning and made a nice play across the bag to finish off a 4-6-3 play an inning later.
"Last time I pitched against them, I went in a lot, so I was trying to work on going down and away," Harrell said. "Working with [catcher Carlos] Corporan, we were on the same page all game and I threw a lot of changeups, threw a couple of curveballs, threw some sliders. It wasn't real good today, but it's something I can address the next few days."
Harrell was forced to hit the deck to get the final out of the fourth inning. Zimmerman's bat busted above the hands and went flying over the head of Harrell, who hit the ground and was struck in the face by a small piece of the bat.
"A lot of people probably thought when I went down it was my groin, but when the bat went over my head, a little piece of it flew up and hit me in the face," the pitcher said. "That's why I went down. I was trying to get out of the way of the bat."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.