3/17/2013 5:20 P.M. ET
Norris makes strong case for Opening Day role
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Bud Norris strengthened his case to be the Opening Day starter by throwing six strong innings -- the longest outing by an Astros pitcher this spring -- and allowing three hits and two runs while striking out five Blue Jays on Sunday.
Norris, who would pitch twice at home in the first week of the season if the starts the March 31 season opener against the Rangers, is looking for his first Opening Day assignment. Lucas Harrell, the team's 2012 Pitcher of the Year, is also getting consideration to make the start.
"That decision is going to be made on [manager Bo Porter's] account," Norris said. "I feel confident in Lucas going out there and doing that job, and I feel confident in myself going out there and doing that job. The fact of the matter is we have to feel confident whoever we send out on a five-day basis to get the job done."
Norris threw 46 of 68 pitches for strikes and then threw 12-15 pitches more in the bullpen to reach his pitch count. His slider had late life and good depth and he spotted his fastball well.
"The slider got lazy a couple of innings," Norris said. "Obviously, the third inning when they scored there were a couple of bad sliders, but once I got it out of my head to go out there and compete and be confident with it, they started coming along. You're always trying to locate. That's the No. 1 priority, but attacking and being aggressive is also a priority."
Carter shows mechanical progress with big game
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left fielder Chris Carter has been working in the batting cage daily with hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Dan Radison on getting his stride foot down early and making sure his back side comes through the zone.
The results were on display Sunday when Carter, the slugger acquired from the A's in last month's Jed Lowrie trade, went 2-for-3 with a pair of two-run homers and five RBIs in the Astros' 11-2 win over the Jays. Carter's four homers is tied for the team lead with Jason Castro and Brandon Laird, both of whom also homered Sunday.
"It's still a work in progress ... but it all came together today," Carter said.
Houston manager Bo Porter could tell early in the spring that Carter's timing wasn't great, and he preached it was only a matter of time before Carter came around.
"Carter has done a lot of extra work with John Mallee and Dan Radison, and they've done a tremendous job getting things dialed up with him and you're starting to see the power display," Porter said. "We knew when he got his timing down, he has power to all fields and he's capable of doing what he did today consistently."
Carter also played his best game of the spring in left field, including making a running catch near the line.
"I feel better out there reading the ball off the bat," Carter said. "I got a couple of good jumps today, and the hard work is paying off."
Astros send 10 players to Minor League camp
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros trimmed their Spring Training roster by 10 players on Sunday morning, optioning outfielders Robbie Grossman and Jimmy Paredes, shortstop Jonathan Villar and pitchers Paul Clemens and Dallas Keuchel to Minor League camp.
Meanwhile, outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, catcher Carlos Perez and pitchers C.J. Fick, Josh Zeid and Sergio Escalona were reassigned to Minor League camp.
The moves leave the Astros with 39 players in camp two weeks shy of the March 31 season opener against the Texas Rangers (that doesn't include pitchers Jose Veras and Xavier Cedeno, who are competing in the World Baseball Classic).
"We open up two weeks from today, and even though it's a long Spring Training, it feels as though it's gone very quickly," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We've got a lot of work to do here. We've got to get down to 25. Pitchers are going longer in games, we've got innings to dole out, we want to see our position players go a little deeper and have a few more at-bats as well.
"A lot of these guys we're sending out today have a bright future in our organization and they know they'll be back. They need to go down and get regular work and go to their respective Minor League locations and show us what they can do. We know the 25 we start with are not the 25 we're going to have all year.
"They've done, by and large, a good job and especially when you have a new staff at the big league level, it's a clean slate for everybody. Everybody gets to know each other, and I think it's been very good for a lot of these players to really take advantage of a clean slate to go out and [impress]. When the time comes, our staff is not going to hesitate to want them back up here."
The moves do little to clear up any of the Astros' position battles they had to start the spring (Keuchel was competing for a rotation spot), and Luhnow expects those decisions will go down to the wire.
"We want to give everybody the opportunity to show us what they have and we want to take into account the historical context of what they've been able to do," Luhnow said. "It's still murky in the rotation and still murky in the outfield and infield a little bit, so we're going to continue to evaluate and use those at-bats and innings for next two weeks to help us make key decisions on the 25."
Correa makes his mark in Major League camp
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Minor League shortstop Carlos Correa, MLB.com's No. 2-ranked Astros player, has made such a positive impression in his first Spring Training that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he expects him to spend most of the season with Class A Quad Cities of the Midwest League.
Correa, last year's No. 1 overall Draft pick, is in Minor League camp, but he appeared in a Grapefruit League game Saturday in Viera, Fla., and went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, a run scored and a stolen base. The 18-year-old carries himself with the poise of polished pro.
Luhnow said Correa could begin the year at extended spring training, but will wind up in Quad Cities soon. Last year, Correa hit .232 with two homers and nine RBIs in 39 games with the Gulf Coast League Astros before hitting .371 in 11 games at Greeneville.
"A lot of players I've had experience with that have moved quickly, that first full season, especially if you're a high school player in low A, it's a very good, challenging place to start," Luhnow said.
Quad Cities, which is in Davenport, Iowa, is in its first year as an Astros affiliate, but it was associated with the Cardinals when Luhnow was in charge of St. Louis' farm system. He said he's sent players there to start the season when snow's been on the ground, which isn't ideal.
"We'll have to weigh that part of it," Luhnow said. "He's certainly making a case for maybe even a level higher. We're going to take the conservative approach with him."
Luhnow said he was impressed by how Correa, first baseman Jonathan Singleton -- the club's top prospect -- and right fielder Domingo Santana went about their business when they suited up with the Astros on Saturday.
"They all three looked like they fit in right out of the gate, and that's amazing," Luhnow said. "Obviously, a Spring Training game is very different than a big league game, but it was under the lights and it was against some pretty good pitching and it was a close game. I think Astros fans should be very excited about what was there."
• Luhnow said the club will definitely take more than 25 players back to Houston for the March 29-30 exhibition games against the Cubs, but he couldn't say if the club would have its final roster decisions made by then.
• Outfielder Fernando Martinez, who left Saturday's game against Washington in the first inning with a lower back strain, said he was being given Sunday off and expected to return to action in the next few days.
• Before sending 10 players off to Minor League camp on Sunday, Porter reminded them the evaluations are continuing at the big league level. Porter said he keeps up with what's going on in Minor League camp on a daily basis, getting email reports from the baseball operations staff each night before going over the hard copy the next morning.
"I'm very interested in what's going on down there and how our players are progressing," Porter said.
Porter talked glowingly Sunday about the tools of infielder Jose Martinez, the team's Most Valuable Player at Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012. Martinez is a second baseman, but Porter compared his versatility to Miguel Cairo and said he might give Martinez a look at first base.
• The Astros welcomed baseball comedian Domingo Ayala (stage name) to their complex on Sunday. He did a comedy routine in the clubhouse prior to the game before taking batting practice and fielding grounders. He even took out the lineup card prior to the game against the Jays. Ayala went to college with Astros players Brandon Barnes and Laird.