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Astros pitchers begin batting, running drills

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HOUSTON -- With the Astros heading to PNC Park next week for an Interleague series against former National League Central rival Pittsburgh, pitchers have been taking batting practice on the field and running the bases in anticipation.

Astros pitchers no longer hit now that they're in the American League, except when they visit NL parks. Houston will play at Colorado at the end of May, at Chicago to face the Cubs in June and in St. Louis in July.

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"The fact we're an American League ball club and now we're getting to the portion of the schedule where we will start playing Interleague games, and one thing I didn't want to do was get those guys ramped up too soon," manager Bo Porter said. "The last homestand, they did all their bunting and hitting in the cage and did some extra core exercising and rotational stuff. This homestand, we're getting them out on the field."

Pitchers ran the bases on Friday and worked on hitting and bunting Thursday. Jordan Lyles, who's scheduled to pitch in the series against the Pirates, misses facing other pitchers more than anything.

"I definitely miss it," he said. "As a starting pitcher, you don't miss getting on the bases and using your energy out there. The good thing about the American League is you come in and rest and get focused and get a game plan for the next inning. I definitely miss throwing to the other pitchers and working around the eighth hitter in the lineup."

Lyles, who hit his only career homer in his final start of the 2012 season while in Milwaukee, was asked if he would be swinging for the fences next weekend.

"What do you think?" he joked.

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.

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