03/19/12 5:10 PM ET
Schafer out about a week with sprained hand
By Brian McTaggart and David Villavicencio / MLB.com
"It's really sore today," Schafer said. "Like they told me, with a sprain, the next day is probably going to be the worst. I'm just happy it's not broken.
"I'm OK with missing a couple of days, but I just didn't want the break and to miss a couple of months. I'm happy it's only a sprain."
Schafer has had plenty of problems with his left hand in the past. He had left wrist surgery at the end of the 2009 season, and last year, he broke a joint on his left middle finger. Schafer 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.
Schafer is having a terrific spring, hitting .391 (9-for-23), and will be Houston's starting center fielder. He drew a pair of walks Sunday, and scored two runs in his only two plate appearances as the leadoff hitter against the Mets.
Weiland has mixed results in second start
JUPITER Fla. -- Kyle Weiland's second Grapefruit League start was not as brilliant as his first, but the Astros right-hander was still effective.
The 25-year-old was able to pitch himself out of jams in the first and second innings, but the Marlins finally put together a rally against him in the third. Weiland allowed two runs on four hits over his three innings in Houston's 7-4 win on Monday afternoon.
"Those are positives that I can take from the outing, but you need to look at both sides of it," Weiland said of pitching out of trouble. "I didn't have great offspeed stuff today, and they knew I wasn't throwing the curveball for a strike early on. That makes it a lot easier to hit a fastball, especially from behind in the count, when they know that the curveball is not getting over for a strike. That made things a little more difficult for me today."
Astros manager Brad Mills hoped to get as many as five innings from his starter on Monday, but Mills decided to pull Weiland after throwing 63 pitches over three innings.
"I don't know what the deal was, maybe the mound or something, but it seemed like everybody on both sides, the command of the pitches just wasn't there," Mills said. "Everybody was working from behind in the count on both sides."
Weiland had to battle some mechanical issues on the mound that were causing him to struggle with his control.
"It was definitely on and off throughout the whole outing," Weiland said. "It was just a matter of staying within myself. I was flying open a little bit. I'd recognize it, fix it and then it would come back and I'd have to keep recognizing and fixing it."
The mechanical problems only added to an already difficult challenge. Weiland was facing a potent Marlins lineup that featured regulars Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Gaby Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio and Omar Infante.
"Obviously, you don't want to go through an outing trying to work through those things," Weiland said. "You want mechanics to be there, because that's something that you try to work on in the four days off the field. Sometimes it happens, and you've just got to do your best to correct it."
Escalona debuts with scoreless inning
JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros pitcher Sergio Escalona made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday, throwing a scoreless inning in a 7-4 win over the Marlins.
Escalona, who allowed one hit, had been out with a hyperextended left elbow since the beginning of camp.
"I felt pretty good," Escalona said. "My arm responded well. At the end, I was a little tired from all the pitches and foul balls, but thankfully, everything went well."
The injury occurred during a hitting drill early this spring and had kept Escalona out of the first two weeks of games. But now that he is healed, Escalona is focused on preparing for the regular season.
"That's something you can't control," Escalona said. "If you had control, you'd never get hurt, but that stuff happens. I've learned to deal with it, and now we've taken a big step forward. Now I've just got to keep working hard to get where I want to be."
The 27-year-old was Houston's top left-handed reliever in 2011. Escalona was 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. On Monday, he felt he took a good first step toward returning to where he was a year ago.
"I was around the zone, which is what I wanted, and my pitches were working," Escalona said. "I was a bit off in my mechanics, but with throwing more innings and working at it, I can get that fixed."
Hooks brass makes annual Spring Training trip
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Reid Ryan, the CEO of the Astros' Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas, led a contingent of Hooks staff, sponsors and local media around the Astros' Spring Training facility on Monday. The Hooks are co-owned by Nolan Ryan, the former Astros legend and Reid's father.
Among those making the trip to Kissimmee with Ryan were his brother Reese, who's the team's chief financial officer, Hooks director of sponsor services Elisa Macias, director of broadcasting Matt Hicks and Corpus Christi mayor Joe Adame.
"This is our annual Hooks Spring Training trip," Ryan said. "We love coming in and seeing everybody with the Astros. We always try to bring a couple of people from the market. It's a great way for them to come down and see behind the scenes of the way the Astros and Hooks are one big family."
The Hooks went 50-90 last year and finished in fourth place in the Texas League's South Division, but graduated several players to the Major Leagues, including Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes and David Carpenter. Ryan is encouraged by the improving talent in the Astros' Minor League system, which has been bolstered by some blockbuster trades the past few years.
"The fans are really looking forward to it," Ryan said. "The last five years, we have really been kind of thin on the talent after having some great teams early in the life of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Our fans have stuck with us and know all these trades that have happened have brought prospects over, and they saw the fruits of that last year with some of the guys going up [to the Majors], like Paredes. They're fired up. People in Corpus are excited about the Astros playing on April 2."
The Astros will play an exhibition game in Corpus Christi against the Hooks on April 2.
Lowrie shows off photography skills
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros starting shortstop and budding photographer Jed Lowrie has a website up and running to show off his photography skills: jl4photography.com. The site features many shots from Lowrie's offseason African safari and has prints available to purchase.
"I've had a ton of traffic, and that's exciting to check every day and see how many people have gone to the site and see the different places where people are looking at the site," Lowrie said. "I've had some from Europe, India and South America. That's exciting. It would be nice to sell a few, but it's more about displaying them and going through the process."
Lowrie and his wife traveled to Tanzania for their honeymoon late last year, and the shortstop snapped more than 7,000 photos. He's also taken some cityscapes, but don't expect him to post any National League Central photo galleries any time soon.
"I don't get paid to take photos during the year," he said. "I'm here to play ball."
Outfielder Justin Ruggiano didn't travel with the team to Jupiter, Fla., on Monday as originally scheduled because of a stomach virus. Ruggiano said he was feeling better as he left the team facility in Kissimmee on Monday morning.
Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.