03/18/12 7:03 PM ET
Mills sets up intrasquad game for Astros
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Astros manager Brad Mills said the team will hold an intrasquad game at 9 a.m. CT on Tuesday on a back field, with left-handers J.A. Happ and Zach Duke throwing five innings apiece. The Astros are scheduled to play the Cardinals at 12:05 p.m.
Mills will manage both teams in a game that will feature umpires. The teams will have eight-man lineups.
"We're going to run it like a regular game," Mills said. "I want Dave Clark and Bobby Meacham to be first- and third-base coaches on both sides, and I want to give them signs, I want them to get signs from me and I want to give signs to the catchers. I want this to be a game-type situation for the pitchers and allow the hitters to get some at-bats."
The Astros, among other things, are still trying to sort through outfielders J.B. Shuck, Fernando Martinez, Jack Cust, Justin Ruggiano and Travis Buck for a backup role, as well as trying to get innings for fifth-starter candidates Kyle Weiland, Jordan Lyles and Duke.
"This is a little bit different than sending guys to a Minor League game or sending them to a simulated game," Mills said. "This is a step beyond that and will ramp up the intensity for everyone -- pitchers, position players and everyone else."
Schafer day to day after stellar catch for Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer is expected to be sidelined for a few days after suffering a sprained left hand, suffered while making a terrific diving catch in the third inning Sunday against the Mets.
Schafer, who walked twice and scored two runs Sunday and is hitting .391 this spring, braced himself with his left hand while making a tumbling catch in shallow center field.
"I just came in and dove for the ball and felt something pop when I landed, and I went to go have it X-rayed, and the X-rays look good," Schafer said.
Schafer will likely be out for at least a few games, manager Brad Mills said. Schafer wasn't scheduled to play Monday against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla., and Mills said he would likely hold him out Tuesday considering the Astros are off Wednesday.
Schafer had left wrist surgery at the end of the 2009 season, and last year broke a joint on his left middle finger. He was on the disabled list with that injury when the Astros acquired him from the Braves last July as part of the Michael Bourn deal.
"I've had a lot of problems with that hand," Schafer said. "I feel good right now, and an injury is the last thing I want, obviously. Hopefully, it will be OK.
Quintero catches five innings for Astros
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- In his first Grapefruit League action of the spring, veteran Astros catcher Humberto Quintero caught five innings Sunday afternoon against the Mets and went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout. Quintero has been set back by a bulging disk in his back.
"I felt really good," said Quintero, who caught five innings in a Minor League game on Saturday. "Nothing hurts and I have no pain. I feel like I'm 100 percent."
Quintero ripped the first pitch he saw back up the middle for a line drive single in the first inning off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey and came around to score.
"I thought he looked real good," manager Brad Mills said. "Hitting that ball back up the middle the first at-bat was sure nice. But I thought he caught and threw the ball real well those five innings."
With only two weeks of games remaining this spring, Quintero needs to make up for lost time. He's battling for a roster spot with veteran Chris Snyder, and the club signed Landon Powell a few days ago.
"I'm going to try to do my job and handle the pitchers and try to get good at-bats every time I get an opportunity to play, and we'll go from there," Quintero said.
The Kansas City Royals, who are in need of a catcher, had a scout at Osceola County Stadium on Sunday to watch Quintero.
Cust sees outfield action in Minor League game
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros outfielder Jack Cust made his first appearance in the outfield this spring, playing three innings in right field in a Minor League game on Sunday. Cust has been limited to designated hitter duties in Grapefruit League play due to tendinitis in his right elbow.
"It felt good to be back on the field as a real player instead of coming off the bench DHing," Cust said. "I got some work in. My legs felt good."
Cust, who is 0-for-20 this spring, got three plate appearances and went 1-for-1 with a pair of walks in the Minor League game. More importantly, he also threw out a runner at third base in the first inning in what was a good test for his arm.
"The ball finds you quick out there," he said.
The next step for Cust is to get some playing time in the outfield in Grapefruit League play, and with two weeks remaining in camp time is of the essence.
"[Saturday] was the first day I could throw without any restrictions, and I just wanted to go over there and see how I felt in between innings and having to make a throw," Cust said. "Luckily in the first inning, I had to make a throw and it felt good."
Astros' new slogan encourages fans to 'root'
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros on Monday are launching a new advertising campaign for the 2012 season, with the theme of "Root. Root. Root." For the home team.
The slogan, inspired by the song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," will be prominently displayed on banners around and inside Minute Maid Park this season, as well as billboards around the city in both English and Spanish.
Astros players Carlos Lee, Bud Norris, Jason Castro, J.D. Martinez and Jose Altuve will be featured on the billboards, 15 of which will be put up around Houston. In addition to those players, Brian Bogusevic, J.A. Happ, Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers will be featured on pole banners inside the ballpark.
The campaign, which replaces last year's "We Are Your Astros," is separate from the team's 50th anniversary celebration. On Tuesday, the Astros will unveil a list of 13 players who will make appearances this year as part of the team's "Flashback Fridays."
Left-hander Sergio Escalona, who has yet to appear in a game this spring because of elbow inflammation, is close to make his Grapefruit League debut. Escalona will make the trip to Jupiter on Monday and will be available to play against the Marlins, but it's more likely he will pitch Tuesday in Kissimmee against the Cardinals.
Astros manager Brad Mills said he plans to make Wednesday a true off day, meaning the players and field staff won't have to come to the facility. The team doesn't have a game scheduled. "In our staff meeting today, I noticed on the sheet it said Day 28," Mills said. "It hit me that we've been here for a month. We will have gone all the way through for 30 straight days, so let's take [Wednesday] off."