There were plenty of notable performances today in the Astros Spring Training win over the Washington Nationals. Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell held Washington hitless for the first six innings of the game. Norris allowed only a first inning walk in his three innings of work. Harrell followed Bud to the mound and struck out two in three perfect innings. Brett Myers allowed a hit in the seventh but kept the Nats off the scoreboard for his fifth straight scoreless relief appearance.
The Astros connected for ten hits on the afternoon, including homeruns by Brian Bixler and Chris Johnson. Even Jack Cust got into the hit column with a third inning pinch-hit single. It was Cust’s first hit of the spring in 25 at-bats. Johnson’s homer was his third of the spring and he is now hitting .353. The demotion of Jimmy Paredes this morning suggests that Johnson will be the starter at 3B going into the season. Brad Mills wouldn’t formally commit to C.J. when pressed by Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart, but had this to say.
"There’s no doubt C.J. has the upper hand, simply because how he has played. To sit here and name the starter with two weeks to go, let’s see how things play out. C.J.’s a guy that has gone about his business extremely professional and we want him to continue to do that as well. We don’t want to discount the other guys either, what they’ve done this spring."
Bixler is now hitting .333 and still has a shot to make the team as a utility player. Bixler’s ability to play multiple positions should keep him in the hunt at least through the next wave of cuts. Outfielder Travis Buck also survived the latest round of cuts and appears to be on his way to making his sixth straight Opening Day roster. Buck has been a consistent performer in the month of March throughout his career but has yet to keep it going for an entire season.
Paredes looked uncomfortable swinging the bat from the right side of the plate in recent games and the wrist may still be bothering him. Jimmy will get the chance to play second base every day at Oklahoma City, if healthy. Paredes will now serve as an insurance policy for Jose Altuve. If Altuve struggles to produce, Paredes will be a phone call away.
Jed Lowrie returned to action after fouling a ball off his foot earlier in the week. Lowrie played the entire game at shortstop and doubled in his first at-bat. Jordan Schafer (hand) is still listed as day-to-day and hopes to return soon. Schafer was unable to take live batting practice today. Relief pitcher Wilton Lopez remains conspicuously missing in action. Lopez hasn’t pitched for two weeks although no news of an injury has been made public. Kyle Weiland gets the start on the hill tomorrow against Pittsburgh as he continues his assault on the fifth spot in the Astros starting rotation.