KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros catcher J.R. Towles took ground balls at first base Friday afternoon, and he will be getting some reps at third base and in the outfield this spring in an effort to increase his versatility.

"A couple of days ago he came in and we had a little talk, and he said he had played some first before," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "He does a good job behind the plate, but this does nothing but increase his value to be able to do those things."

Towles, the club's former top prospect who's battling for a spot on the roster following an injury-shortened 2010, played some first base, third base and outfield in college. Cracking the Major League club at catcher any time soon will be difficult, with Jason Castro and Humberto Quintero entrenched.

"I feel I'm athletic enough to play other positions than just catch," Towles said. "They're going to work with me for a while first and show me what to do, and what not to do. I like playing other positions."

Mills said Towles could see some time at first base in some Grapefruit League games.

Arias gets cortisone shot in ailing shoulder

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Alberto Arias said he was feeling better after getting a cortisone injection on his right shoulder Friday after being examined by team physician Dr. Tom Mehlhoff. Arias hasn't thrown in several days after he started feeling some discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder.

"We're going to give him a few days of rest to see how he feels in a couple of days, and we'll start back slowly with everything else," manager Brad Mills said.

Mills said it's still early enough in the spring that Arias won't fall significantly behind his peers if he takes a few more days off from throwing. Arias missed all of last season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder last April 11.

"There's no doubt it's a setback for him," Mills said. "He was throwing the ball pretty well in Houston before we came to Spring Training, but we'll see how he gets through it. We'll bring him along to get his arm strength up to where it needs to be. There's no reason to rush it."

Minor League minicamp gets under way

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- More than three dozen of the club's top prospects were in uniform Friday for the first day of workouts in a Minor League minicamp.

Among the players participating were 2010 first-round Draft pick Delino DeShields Jr., Ariel Ovando, Austin Wates, Jonathan Villar, Mike Kvasnicka, Ben Heath, Tanner Bushue, Mike Foltynewicz and Ross Seaton. Ovando, an outfielder, signed for a club-record $2.6 million bonus last year out of the Dominican Republic.

Foltynewicz was taken with the 19th overall pick, and Kvasnicka was the 33rd pick in last year's Draft.

Also in camp is Chia-Jen Lo, a Taiwanese right-hander who was in Major League camp last year with the Astros. He was limited to only seven games last year because of injury but threw a nice bullpen session on Friday.