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3/16/2013 9:53 P.M. ET

Groin problems in past as Harrell has sharp start

VIERA, Fla. -- Astros starter Lucas Harrell certainly appears to be over the groin problems that forced him to miss his turn in the rotation a week ago.

Harrell, making his fourth start of the spring, threw four scoreless, hitless innings Saturday against the Nationals, allowing just two walks. The right-hander threw 27 of his 48 pitches for strikes, including a five-pitch first inning in which he didn't throw a ball.

"I definitely felt like I could have gone two or three more [innings]," Harrell said. "I definitely feel like my arm is where it needs to be and my legs are good now, so I'm ready to get back out there now on a consistent basis."

Harrell mixed his pitches quite well and benefited from a couple of nice defensive plays from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who went behind second base to rob Ryan Zimmerman of a hit in the second inning and made a nice play across the bag to finish off a 4-6-3 play an inning later.

"Last time I pitched against them, I went in a lot, so I was trying to work on going down and away," Harrell said. "Working with [catcher Carlos] Corporan, we were on the same page all game and I threw a lot of changeups, threw a couple of curveballs, threw some sliders. It wasn't real good today, but it's something I can address the next few days."

Harrell was forced to hit the deck to get the final out of the fourth inning. Zimmerman's bat busted above the hands and went flying over the head of Harrell, who hit the ground and was struck in the face by a small piece of the bat.

"A lot of people probably thought when I went down it was my groin, but when the bat went over my head, a little piece of it flew up and hit me in the face," the pitcher said. "That's why I went down. I was trying to get out of the way of the bat."

Touted Astros prospects impress in first MLB action

VIERA, Fla. -- Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, didn't waste any time making a good impression on the Astros, stroking the first pitch he saw Saturday night into left field for an RBI single in his Grapefruit League debut.

Correa joined fellow prospects Jonathan Singleton, a first baseman, and Domingo Santana, an outfielder, in traveling with the Major League club for the game against Washington, which Houston won, 4-2. All three entered the game in the sixth inning, with Correa going 1-for-2 with a stolen base and a run scored, Singleton going 0-for-1 and Santana drawing a walk.

"My first experience in a big league game, even though it was in Spring Training, it was a lot of fun to be with the players over here and play against the Washington Nationals," Correa said. "It was a really great experience for me."

Correa, 18, hit the first pitch he saw from Nats reliever Drew Storen for a game-tying single in the eighth before popping out in the ninth.

"I was going to be aggressive," Correa said. "Obviously, he left me a fastball in the zone and I swung at it and I got a hit. My plan was to be aggressive if the pitch was in the zone."

Astros manager Bo Porter said Correa shook his hand after the game and thanked him for the opportunity. Porter said he was impressed by how all three handled themselves on Saturday.

"You watch them go about their business, you watch them take ground balls, you watch them take batting practice," the manager said. "They're top prospects for a reason. They're highly talented young men. When you talk to them, they're mature beyond their years.

"They all came in when they came over today and spoke to me and they wanted to introduce themselves, even though I already know them. Ever after the game, we were in line shaking hands and the first thing [Correa] said is, 'Bo, thank you for this opportunity.' It shows you how much they appreciated it, and we're glad to have those guys in the organization."

Singleton was originally in the lineup at designated hitter, but Porter had to shuffle his order when the Nats opted to have pitchers hit. The slugger would have been in Major League camp for the second year in a row had he not been suspended for the first 50 games of the season after a second failed drug test.

"It's definitely a chance to leave a lasting impression, but I'm just going to go out here and play my game," Singleton before the game.

Santana, acquired along with Singleton, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid from the Phillies in exchange for Hunter Pence in 2011, hit .302 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs in 119 games at Class A Lancaster last season.

Astros have pitcher hit for first time this spring

VIERA, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, an Astros pitcher was in the batting order after the Nationals opted to have pitchers hit on Saturday. Astros manager Bo Porter originally had Jonathan Singleton in the lineup at designated hitter, but wound up having pitcher Lucas Harrell bat ninth.

The Astros are in the American League this year and will employ the DH, but the Nats had the right to have the pitcher hit since the were at home. Actually, Nats manager Davey Johnson told Porter he could use the DH if he wanted.

"Like I told Davey, it actually gives us an opportunity to take a look at some guys in pinch-hit situations," Porter said. "It's always tough for the umpire when you have one team DHing and the other team is using the pitcher. I'm always one to say you play the game and both teams should be governed by the same rules."

Even though they will only hit during Interleague games in NL ballparks this year, Astros pitchers still got plenty of bunting practice this spring.

"It's very important," Porter said. "A pitcher's ability to move a guy 90 feet is extremely important as you look at his ability to be able to stay in the game."

First-base coach Clark OK after being hit by ball

VIERA, Fla. -- The Astros had a scary moment prior to Saturday's game when first-base coach Dave Clark was hit in the back of the head by a thrown ball in the outfield and was on the ground for a few minutes before brushing off the incident.

Clark was hitting balls to the outfielders behind a screen in shallow center field when Nate Freiman struck him with an errant throw.

"I didn't see it coming," said Clark, a former Golden Gloves boxer. "The fact of the matter is I was able to get up and continue my work."

Clark wasn't the only member of the team to get struck in batting practice. Catcher Rene Garcia was hit on the top of the head by a ball during batting practice, but he was fine.

"We're going to get it up on the white board so everybody knows where everybody's at," manager Bo Porter joked.

Clark, who wears a helmet while coaching first base, says getting hit by a ball isn't usually something he worries about.

"In the back of your mind you think about a batted ball, but for someone to throw the ball?" he joked. "I'll rag on Nate the rest of the day and the rest of Spring Training."

Worth noting

• Fernando Martinez, who started the game in right field for the Astros, left in the first inning Saturday with tightness in his back.

Brian McTaggart is a 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.