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03/02/11 5:30 PM EST

Next step for Arias is MRI exam

Troublesome right shoulder will delay reliever's progress

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Astros right-hander Alberto Arias is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his right shoulder, which has prevented him from being able to throw from the mound for more than a week. Arias is trying to return from shoulder surgery that cost him all of the 2010 season.

"It seems like he's still getting some impingement in his shoulder; we're going to have an MRI and take a look at it," manager Brad Mills said.

Arias, 27, came to camp with a clean bill of health but experienced some discomfort on one of the first days of throwing in the bullpen.

"He's going to be behind, there's no doubt," Mills said. "This latest incident that has come up is really going to put him back there. The important thing is to get him healthy and strong and going again. In the long run, we hope that's going to happen for him.

"We haven't seen him pitch now in quite a while. We need to get him back and healthy and strong for his sake and his career, and if he can help benefit us, we're all better off."

Happ's full arsenal at work in debut

LAKELAND, Fla. -- It was the first start of Spring Training for J.A. Happ, but it may as well have been the middle of the season. The steady Astros left-hander tossed two innings in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday afternoon, allowing only a single while striking out two batters in Houston's 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.

"It was awesome to get out there and compete again," Happ said. "That's the first time without a [protective] screen in front of me, and it was awesome to get out there and try to throw strikes and compete."

Happ, traded to the Astros from the Phillies last July, was able to throw some breaking balls for strikes and stay ahead of hitters.

"I went out there with the mind-set I was going to throw everything if the count allowed," Happ said. "I said if I got behind, I would stick to the fastball and changeup, and try to throw strikes with those first two. I got ahead of guys and was able to throw some breaking balls in there, too."

Manager Brad Mills was pleased.

"He worked down in the zone and was able to throw all his pitches ... and doing it in his first outing is really nice to see," Mills said.

Norris hopes health sparks consistency

TAMPA, Fla. -- Right-hander Bud Norris is an important swing man for the Astros in 2011, as his consistency -- or lack thereof -- in the No. 4 spot will go a long way toward determining the overall strength of this rotation.

The Astros are hoping for more consistency from Norris than they saw in 2010, when he was 2-6 with a 5.97 ERA in the first half of the season and 7-4 with a 4.18 ERA in the second half.

You could say Norris, who made his spring debut against the Yankees on Wednesday in Houston's 6-5 loss, is off to a good start in providing that consistency, as he has not yet been hit by the stomach flu or right shoulder problems this spring. Those issues provided a one-two punch that helped get Norris' 2010 season off to a rocky start.

"I'm looking forward to a fresh start," Norris said. "I gained confidence in the second half last year. I know when I'm healthy, I can succeed and get a lot of outs at this level. I've always had that, but I lost a little of it when I wasn't as healthy as I should have been."

With his health in check, Norris, entering his second full season in the bigs, can focus instead on the little things. On Tuesday, he concentrated on throwing two-seamers and changeups to the Yankees. The two-seamer helped him get five ground-ball outs in his two innings. The only damage came when Alex Rodriguez doubled to lead off the second and the Yanks moved him over and home with a pair of groundouts.
-- Anthony Castrovince

Technology keeps Mills informed

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Astros manager Brad Mills can't be two in places at once, which forced him to make a decision about which split-squad game to attend Wednesday.

Mills traveled with the Astros to their 6-3 win over the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., with bench coach Al Pedrique managing Houston's 6-5 loss to the Yankees at Tampa, Fla. Fortunately for Mills, the game against the Yankees was available on MLB.com, and Mills was hoping to catch some of that game on his iPad.

"It's almost ridiculous," Mills said of the ability to keep in touch.

Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, third-base coach Dave Clark and special assistant Jeff Bagwell joined Mills in Lakeland, with first-base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Mike Barnett traveling with Pedrique to Tampa.

"On his way back after the game, I'll call Al and we'll talk about things," Mills said. "We have quite a few people who are out of uniform going down there as well. Those conversations will be in the morning, more than anything else."

The Astros have five remaining split-squad dates this spring.

Worth noting

Astros left fielder Carlos Lee will make his annual voyage to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday and will miss workouts on Thursday and Friday. Lee is a cattle rancher and shows livestock each year at the rodeo.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.