Astros begrudgingly send first pitcher to plate

Astros begrudgingly send first pitcher to plate

JUPITER, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, an Astros pitcher found himself in the batting lineup on Tuesday, when the club traveled to Roger Dean Stadium to take on the Marlins. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel got the honor, occupying the No. 9 spot against Miami's Jacob Turner.

"Our offense will probably get going because Keuchel may go deep, so we're really looking forward to having him hit," Astros manager Bo Porter deadpanned. "To get that bat in the lineup, for a struggling lineup, Keuchel is definitely the guy we need to have going tonight."

Keuchel is a career .100 hitter (2-for-20), with most of those chances coming in 2012, Houston's last season in the National League. Astros pitchers combined for only 25 plate appearances in the club's first American League season, going 2-for-20 with 11 strikeouts, two walks and three sacrifices.

When the Astros play in an NL team's park during Spring Training, they call ahead and find out whether the opponent wants to have the pitchers hit or use a designated hitter. Now that the regular season is drawing close, Porter expects most of them to select the first option the rest of the way.

However, there is no sense of urgency for the Astros to get their pitchers ready to take swings. Their first of 10 road Interleague contests won't arrive until June 9, when they face the D-backs in Phoenix.

"At this stage, one, I don't even want them swinging, and two, I don't really want them on the bases either," Porter said. "This time of year, the last thing you want to do is just to lose someone doing something other than pitching."

Therefore, Porter gave Keuchel some strict instructions.

"Bunt him over, or take four balls or three strikes, whichever comes first."

Sure enough, in the third inning, Keuchel took three straight strikes without swinging the bat.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.