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03/08/12 4:20 PM ET

Luhnow reaches out to Ryan, Daniels

Astros' GM apologizes for comment about Texas' spending

VIERA, Fla. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who created a minor stir last week when he said while speaking at an analytical conference that the Texas Rangers were spending in the international market like "drunken sailors," said Thursday he sent a direct apology to Rangers team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels.

"I reached out to Jon and to Nolan because it was taken out of context," Luhnow said. "I don't know what they heard, but I did reach out to them and explained that it was not a dig against that organization, because they've done a great job there."

The Rangers opened their wallets for pitcher Yu Darvish earlier this year, signing him to a six-year, $60 million deal, and they have signed Dominican teenager Jairo Beras, though the deal is being reviewed by Major League Baseball.

Luhnow spoke last week at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which was co-chaired by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The conference provided a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry.

Castro in back-to-back games for first time

VIERA, Fla. -- Astros catcher Jason Castro was in the lineup at designated hitter on Thursday, marking the first time this spring he's started consecutive games. Castro's previous three starts prior to Thursday came behind the plate, and he has caught 12 innings total.

The Astros are bringing Castro along slowly this spring after he missed all of last season following ACL surgery on his right knee and undergoing left foot surgery in December. He went 1-for-3 against the Nationals on Thursday to raise his spring average to .375.

"I want to get him some at-bats," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Here's a guy who did get some playing time in the Arizona Fall League last year, but we need to get this kid some at-bats."

With veteran catcher Humberto Quintero dealing with a bulging disk in his back that's expected to keep him sidelined into next week, Mills has plenty of opportunity to get playing time for Castro and fellow catcher Chris Snyder, who missed half of last season following back surgery. Snyder started behind the plate Thursday.

"When 'Q' comes back from his back thing, he needs some at-bats," Mills said. "It's going to be kind of tough on him, but we're going to try to get as many at-bats for our guys to get them ready. The second half of the month when we don't use the DH, it's going to be really tough to get them at-bats."

Quintero, who had a cortisone shot in his back while in Houston on Wednesday, returned to Kissimmee on Thursday and played catch. He could catch in the bullpen as early as Saturday, but Mills said he won't swing a bat until next week.

Livan 'feels good' after liner off leg

VIERA, Fla. -- Veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez had his start against the Washington Nationals on Thursday -- his second in a row against his former team -- cut a bit short after he was struck on the outside of his right leg by a grounder hit off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the third inning.

"I feel good now, but we'll see tomorrow," Hernandez said. "There's nothing to worry about. I had one more hitter, so it's better to go out there."

In his second start of the spring, Hernandez allowed three hits, two runs and two walks and struck out two batters in 2 1/3 innings. He threw 49 pitches, including 31 for strikes.

Hernandez gave up a homer to Zimmerman in the first.

"I felt good," Hernandez said. "The wind was crazy and there was the fly ball to right field [Zimmerman's homer]. More important, I feel better than the first time. The breaking ball is better today and the changeup breaks very good. The sinker is working very good, too. I'm trying to work every day and am getting better and better. I feel good today."

Astros to decide on Colt .45s jerseys on Friday

VIERA, Fla. -- The Astros will make a decision on Friday whether to have a Colt .45 pistol on the retro uniforms they will wear twice this season as part of the club's 50th anniversary. The team said Major League Baseball informed it this week the decision to wear the uniform would be up to the club.

Major League Baseball had previously mandated for the team to wear a modified jersey that doesn't include the pistol. The franchise was called the Colt .45s when it was born in 1962, with the uniforms featuring a smoking pistol.

In a statement released Friday, the team said: "Over the past few months, the club has been in discussion with Major League Baseball about whether to wear the authentic Colt .45s jersey. The original logo features the Colts name and a pistol. The alternative jersey would only have the Colts name on the front of the jersey. This week, MLB informed the Astros that the decision would be left to the ballclub.

"The Astros organization continues to value fan input, therefore the Astros have been reaching out to fans the past week to get their opinion on this issue.

"Our fans have expressed overwhelming passion and support for the Astros and our rich 50-year tradition. We plan to announce our decision tomorrow, Friday, March 9."

One of the cornerstones of the Astros' 50th anniversary campaign is "Flashback Fridays," when the club will wear some of the most recognizable and iconic uniforms in its history. The Astros are scheduled to wear the Colt .45s jerseys on April 10 against the Braves, and April 20 against the Dodgers.

Worth noting

• Third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who has been slowed by inflammation in his wrist since winter ball, made his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday, striking out swinging from the left side of the plate in the eighth. He will make his first start Friday against the Blue Jays in Kissimmee.

"You have to bring him along at a pace to get him to where he needs to be," manager Brad Mills said.

• Left-hander Zach Duke is scheduled to make his first start of the spring for the Astros on Saturday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. Duke, a non-roster invitee, pitched three innings in relief Monday, and is battling to win a spot in either the rotation or in the bullpen.

Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.