03/26/12 5:25 PM ET
Astros keeping recovering Schafer out of action
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Schafer has been out for more than a week after spraining his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield March 18 in Kissimmee. He's taken batting practice the last three days, but he hasn't made enough of a progression to get into a game.
Mills originally said Monday morning he wanted to get Schafer into Tuesday's game, but told reporters after the game against Washington it probably wasn't going to happen.
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 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. Schafer is having a terrific spring and is hitting .391 (9-for-23).
In command: Lyles feels great after start
VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Lyles sounded more enthusiastic than he has at any point this spring after his outing in the Astros' 7-4 loss to the Nationals on Monday, during which he allowed eight hits and three earned runs and struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings.
Lyles, a candidate for the final spot in the rotation, and manager Brad Mills were both pleased with the 21-year-old right-hander's command during his 89-pitch outing. Mills went as far as to call it his best outing of the spring and said he was impressed with the life on his fastball.
"I think this is probably my best outing command-wise," Lyles said. "Working with [catcher] Chris [Snyder], I felt fine. I was able to throw the ball over the plate where I wanted to, and a couple of balls found holes, but you can't complain. Me and Chris worked well together, and I threw some good pitches."
Lyles had a 1-2-3 first inning and gave up seven hits and three runs in the second and third, but there were a few bloopers in there. He allowed two unearned runs in the fifth after third baseman Chris Johnson made a two-out fielding error.
"I had a couple of long innings, and I think that's going to help down the road," Lyles said. "I don't know the most pitches I threw in one inning, but there were two innings I threw a lot, and it's good for me right now. Overall, to go out there and feel healthy and get those pitches in -- an inning or two more would have been better -- but I'm satisfied with the pitch count and how I threw the ball over the plate."
Lyles has allowed 11 earned runs and walked only three batters in 15 2/3 innings this spring.
"[I've shown them] that I can throw the ball over the plate," he said. "Just trying to find that groove right now. Today was a step in the right direction, but the curveball is coming along. I buried a couple when I wanted to, and that's just something I didn't have in the past. That pitch is coming along well, and everything is starting to find its place."
Opposing pitchers likely to affect Castro, Snyder
VIERA, Fla. -- When asked Monday how he was going to split time between catchers Jason Castro and Chris Snyder when the regular season begins, manager Brad Mills was non-committal. Castro is the starter, but both men are coming off serious injuries.
"I haven't really given it much thought yet," Mills said. "We've still got a little ways to go before I do that. We'll kind of see the [pitching] staffs we're going to be facing, and that probably has a lot to do with it, and we'll sit down and look at our rotation."
Mills has typically liked to pair a catcher with a pitcher in the rotation, but that will be harder to do because Castro swings left-handed and Snyder swings right-handed. That could force Mills to start a catcher based on who's pitching for the other team and not the Astros.
"Snyder and Castro have swung the bats pretty well this spring, and we're getting some pretty good production from that position," Mills said.
Castro, who missed all of last season following ACL surgery, caught consecutive games Saturday and Sunday for the first time this spring. Snyder, who missed the second half of last year following back surgery, caught consecutive games for the first time Sunday and Monday.
"There's no physical limitations on either one of them other than they're both coming back from injuries," Mills said.
Johnson in running for NCAA tourney win
VIERA, Fla. -- Astros third baseman Chris Johnson fancies himself a college basketball aficionado, and he's proven his knowledge of the game by how well he's picked teams in this year's NCAA basketball tournament.
MLB.com chose one player from each of the league's 30 teams to compete in a competition to pick the games for March Madness, and Johnson has three Final Four teams remaining -- Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas. He's currently in fourth among the 30 players, but he'll win the challenge if Kentucky beats Ohio State in the title game.
"As crazy as this tournament has been, I'm actually surprised to be up there," Johnson said. "I've got to look over the sheet again, but hopefully my three teams can win. I picked Kentucky winning the whole thing over Ohio State, so those are the two teams that need to get it done. Those are the guys I'm rooting for now that my team [Duke] is out."
Jon Niese of the Mets (91 points) is currently in first place, followed by Milwaukee's Chris Narveson (90) and Oakland's Cliff Pennington (90). Johnson has 89 points, but his best possible score is 153, which trails only Niese's 155. Niese picked Ohio State to win.
Right-hander Bud Norris, who has been dealing with tightness in his triceps, will have his start pushed back two days, meaning he'll take the mound Friday against the Braves in Kissimmee. Right-hander Lucas Harrell will start Wednesday against the Marlins.
"We're not scared at all or nervous about anything," manager Brad Mills said. "It's not going to affect him at all getting ready for the season."
Left-hander Kevin Chapman, a relief pitcher the Astros received from the Royals in the trade for Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero last week, was brought from Minor League camp and traveled with the big league club to Viera on Monday.
"[The trade] was really unexpected, but I like the switch so far," Chapman said. "It's a good opportunity to come in here. Obviously, they wanted me, so it's definitely a good spot."