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03/08/11 7:08 PM ET

Battle for final rotation spot heats up

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The race for the fifth starter's spot was front and center Tuesday afternoon, with three of the five candidates for the job -- Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton -- all in action in two different games.

Figueroa started the split-squad game against the Mets, his former team, and gave up three hits and one run in one inning. Figueroa allowed New York to load the bases with one out in the first inning, but he allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez started the Astros' other split-squad game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., and gave up four hits and one walk in three scoreless innings. He was followed on the mound by Pendleton, who allowed two hits, two walks, one run and hit one batter in two innings.

Figueroa said he doesn't pay much attention to what his competition is doing.

"I'm not looking up stats, not looking up numbers," he said. "I've had camps where I've done outstanding and outpitched everyone in camp and didn't make the team. I don't really put too much basis on that. I go out there and pitch and try to take care of business on the mound and root on my teammates when I'm not on the mound.

"Every single guy that's fighting for the No. 5 spot, we try to find out who's feeling good and try to throw the ball well. The healthy competition is good."

The other two fifth-starter candidates -- Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jordan Lyles -- will pitch Wednesday's game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Barmes done tinkering with batting stance

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Clint Barmes came to camp this year with the goal of trying to employ a leg kick into his stance, something he had done earlier in his career. After not seeing the type of results in games he had hoped, Barmes has ditched the leg kick.

"The last couple of days I'm working on going back to keeping it simple and eliminated the leg kick," he said. "I gave it a shot. I believed it was something that could help me. The timing was off, and I wasn't able to either pull the trigger on some pitches, or I was either too early or too late to swing.

"I'm kind of going back to keeping it simple and being able to control the bat, especially hitting second [in the order]. I know that's something I need to do. I honestly thought that was something I could do, but that's the trial and error coming into Spring Training."

Barmes had hoped the leg kick would keep the barrel in the path of the ball longer and help him see the ball a little better.

"It's one of those things coming in I worked on most of the winter and the timing of it in the games just hadn't started clicking," he said. "At this point, I need to find something I'm going to be able to use and have some success with."

Hall, Mills reunite with Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bill Hall played just one season with the Red Sox, but it was an arrangement that worked out for both sides. With the club decimated by injuries last year, Hall stepped up and filled in at several positions. In doing so, he rebounded after a couple of tough seasons.

Hall returned to City of Palms Park on Tuesday as the starting second baseman for the Astros. When Houston was inquiring about him on the free-agent market, Red Sox manager Terry Francona gave Astros manager Brad Mills a glowing recommendation. Francona and Mills are best friends.

"Oh, he's a great guy," Francona said. "[He had a] short stay here, but we enjoyed him. He played center field, second base, shortstop, left field, right field. He played everywhere. He had the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It was very valuable. He [was] highly recommended."

Mills has enjoyed his brief time with Hall, who clubbed 18 homers for the Red Sox in 2010.

"We always listen to guys like [Terry] and everything else," said Mills. "Billy has been absolutely outstanding. He's done a great job for us. He's working his tail off to come around and get everything going in the flow. He's got such a strong arm that he turns the double play well."

The Red Sox were also happy to see Mills, their bench coach from 2004-09. As Mills roamed the concourse in the morning, Dustin Pedroia mockingly hollered to security, "Usher, can you get the fan out of here!"

When Mills arrived in the visitors' clubhouse, there was a picture of Dr. Evil above Houston's lineup with the inscription, "Welcome Back, Millsy."

"They used that last year," Mills said. "I told them they need to turn the page."

Koby Clemens faces Beckett, Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was a bit surreal for Astros prospect Koby Clemens to get the opportunity to start at first base against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox on Tuesday afternoon at City of Palms Park.

Clemens remembers City of Palms Park well from the days of his youth, when his father, Roger, was pitching for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox trained in Fort Myers for the Rocket's final four seasons with the club.

"I actually got to play here in a wooden bat world championship one time in high school, so it was cool then, too," said Koby Clemens. "It's going to be a lot of fun today. I'm just going to have a good time with it."

Roger Clemens was at City of Palms Park on Tuesday to watch Koby play. In his first at-bat, Clemens grounded out to third.

"Growing up as a kid, I remember coming to the ballpark [in Fort Myers] and watching my dad pitch," said Koby Clemens. "But more than anything, I remember going to the theme parks -- going over there. But we did a lot of stuff on the back field baseball-wise and had a lot of fun. It was just cool to be around the ballplayers and the experience."

Clemens, who was born in 1986, has fond memories of when his father played for the Sox.

"It was special. I remember the years in Boston were just phenomenal," said Koby. "We lived in Framingham. I remember going to the games, just going to the stadium, there was a different kind of smell with the meat and everything. Everything was just so great about it. I used to love watching all the games, watching Mo Vaughn and [Mike] Greenwell and all those guys. It was a lot of fun growing up being in Boston."

Worth noting

The Astros have signed catcher Robinson Cancel to a Minor League deal, and he will report to Minor League camp. He's a career .213 hitter in 43 career Major League games, none since 2009. ... Jason Michaels, who was originally in the lineup in the outfield for the first time this spring in Tuesday's against the Red Sox in Fort Myers, wound up being scratched because of back spasms. He experienced stiffness during batting practice. "It's a spasm, just a little stiff," he said. "I don't think it's serious, but we decided to play it safe." ... Astros third baseman Chris Johnson exchanged lineup cards Tuesday in Fort Myers with his father, Ron, the first-base coach for the Red Sox. ... Bench coach Al Pedrique managed the split-squad win over the Mets after losing his previous two split-squad games of spring.

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