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03/22/11 4:43 PM ET

Villar continues rise; Abad struggling

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Henry Villar has helped his chances of making the club with a terrific spring performance. He threw two more scoreless innings Tuesday against the Nationals, striking out two batters, to lower his ERA to 1.80.

Villar, who made the jump from Double-A to the Majors last year, has thrown two innings in his past four spring outings, pushing his Grapefruit League total to 12 frames. He's allowed three hits, one walk and one earned run and struck out eight batters in that span.

"He's had a great spring and is throwing the ball well and doing a really good job," manager Brad Mills said.

Meanwhile, left-hander Fernando Abad continued his Spring Training struggles Tuesday, allowing four hits and two runs in one inning. He gave up a two-run, tie-breaking homer to Michael Morse in the eighth inning to suffer the loss.

Abad, competing for a left-handed bullpen spot, has allowed 14 hits and seven earned runs while striking out nine batters in 6 2/3 innings this spring after an eye-opening Winter League performance. Mills said he's had trouble locating his fastball.

"They're going to go back to the drawing board and will work from there, and there's no reason to think he won't come around and be fine," Mills said.

Wandy feels great being back on the mound

VIERA, Fla. -- Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who missed a turn in the rotation after being diagnosed with mild shoulder tendinitis, threw four strong innings Tuesday afternoon against the Nationals in his first start since March 10.

Rodriguez, who will start the Astros' second regular-season game, allowed three hits and one unearned run and no walks in four innings. He threw 70 pitches in the game, and then tossed 12 more in the bullpen to reach his pitch count instead of perhaps getting pulled in the middle of an inning.

"You know what? The last inning I felt my shoulder was a little bit tired because I had a long time of not throwing in a game," Rodriguez said. "But everything is fine. I feel great."

Rodriguez only struck out one batter and said he had trouble locating his curveball down in the zone.

"I missed a couple of times because I wanted to throw it in the dirt," he said. "I got it low, but not in the dirt. I think in my mind I wanted to throw it in the dirt, and I couldn't and I don't know why."

Lyon latest to be scratched due to illness

VIERA, Fla. -- Closer Brandon Lyon became the latest Astros player to have an illness affect his schedule this spring. Lyon was supposed to throw one inning in a Minor League game Tuesday in Kissimmee, Fla., but was scratched because he didn't feel well.

The Astros have had a rash of players fall ill during spring, including Michael Bourn, Fernando Abad, Wilton Lopez, Arcenio Leon, Angel Sanchez and Jeff Keppinger, who's also currently nursing an illness.

"When we left [for Viera, Fla., and the game against the Nationals on Tuesday], we knew he was stick and he was still going to throw if he could, and he just couldn't make it," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "It's really been something, that sickness."

Sanchez, meanwhile, was able to play in a Minor League game in Kissimmee. He led off five innings and went 1-for-3 with two walks and had no problems with his ailing back. Mills said Sanchez will return to the lineup Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton.

"Everything was fine and he took some ground balls and was fine, so he'll be on the trip and play [Wednesday]," Mills said. "We'll try to get him as healthy as we can and as much playing time as we can going forward and do the best we can with the time that's remaining."

Worth noting

Astros pitcher Cesar Carrillo has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City, removing him from the 40-man roster. ... Several Astros starters played nine innings Tuesday in 84-degree heat, including center fielder Michael Bourn, shortstop Clint Barmes, second baseman Bill Hall, catcher J.R. Towles and first baseman Matt Downs. "The heat's good," manager Brad Mills said. "Heat's what builds up that stamina and endurance. It was good to see those guys go nine innings."

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