03/19/2013 5:22 PM ET
Porter watches Humber, analyzes AL West
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In addition to watching Philip Humber throw a simulated game during the Astros' scheduled day off Monday, manager Bo Porter took some time to begin studying his American League West opponents a little closer.
"It was the first day I started to look at how their Spring Trainings are going and the projected rosters and projected lineups and our projected rotation, lineup and all that," he said.
The one thing that jumped out to Porter was that AL West foes Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles Angels and Texas appear to be heavy on left-handed starting pitching.
"It's a competitive division, and as it stands today, you're probably going to have, out of the 20 starters in the division, eight or nine of them will be left-handed, I know that much," Porter said.
And when it comes to hitters, Porter does not need to be reminded of some of the talented sluggers in the division, especially the Angels.
"They have some guys on the back of their baseball cards that look good," he said.
Lyles focuses on advances made in rough outing
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Astros pitcher Jordan Lyles was roughed up by the Jays on Tuesday afternoon in Dunedin, Fla., allowing six runs and 10 hits -- including two home runs -- in 3 2/3 innings. It has been a rough spring for the 22-year-old, but he remains confident he will make it to where he needs to be when the season starts.
"My stat lines this spring haven't been good in any way, but at the end of the day you can't look at that," he said. "Personally, I would like to be better, but I'm working on things, and I'm going to try to be ready for April and not this month. I'm looking forward to the season. This is the best I felt in Spring Training, and the numbers aren't there for me right now. I'm not overly worried about that."
Lyles, who has allowed 36 hits and 23 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings this spring, gave up a solo homer to Melky Cabrera in the first and a two-run homer to Jose Bautista in the fourth. He said was working on spotting his slider in Tuesday's outing.
"This is probably the first time I've not thrown any cutters and working on the slider," Lyles said. "I really worked on that today, just throwing sliders, and I really like the direction we're going with that, so I can lay off the cutters more. I got some good swings out of guys in that aspect, and I like where that's headed.
"A couple guys made me pay on fastballs today. I'm not too worried about that. They were just balls over the plate, and good players making good swings. The 2-0 fastball to Bautista, that's just a good swing by a really good player."
This was the first time this spring Lyles was paired with Jason Castro, which is something the big right-hander liked.
"It was nice getting back out on the mound working with Jason again for the first time this spring," Lyles said. "It was fun to work with him again, and going into the season hopefully we can get together a couple of more times and get in sync. But like I said, it was good to get back with him today."
Said manager Bo Porter: "He just got the ball elevated and had a chance to put some hitters away and didn't make quality pitches in those situations, and those guys put some pretty good swings on them."
Crowe on bubble as season approaches
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With a little more than a week to go before the Astros break camp and head back to Houston, it is the time of the spring when the players who are on the bubble can't help but wonder if they will be on the roster on Opening Day.
One of those battling for a roster spot is outfielder Trevor Crowe, who has made a good impression in camp. The former first-round Draft pick by the A's entered Tuesday hitting .318 with two doubles, two triples and five RBIs in 22 at-bats.
Crowe, 29, says he is trying not to focus on where he will start the season.
"That's all just part of the process of going through Spring Training and getting ready for the regular season," Crowe said. "The only thing you can really do is focus on the things you have to do to be able to succeed every day. Baseball is a funny game, and it all has a way of working itself out over time."
Crowe, a non-roster invitee this year, is no stranger to fighting for a spot during the spring. He opened the 2009 season on the Indians' roster after David Dellucci was placed on the disabled list and wound up appearing in 68 games in his big league debut.
"It's Spring Training, and in three years in the big leagues I've learned when they turn the lights on it's the same game, but it's a different game," Crowe said. "It's really important right now for you to handle your business and make sure when you're in Yankee Stadium that you're ready to go and you're confident about your routine and what you're going to be able to produce on a daily basis."
Porter among fans of Interleague Play
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- This year marks the 40th anniversary of the designated hitter in the American League, and Astros manager Bo Porter -- whose team will make its AL debut March 31 -- is a fan of having a different set of rules in both leagues.
"I think it's good for baseball," Porter said. "It kind of gives baseball a little different brand. If I were a fan, I would live for Interleague."
When it comes to the DH, Porter says AL teams can be at a disadvantage when they play in National League parks because the DH, which is often the team's best offensive player, is forced to play the field, which is not always ideal.
That is why Porter says it is vital to have a DH who can also play the field adequately. The Astros have that in Carlos Pena, who has a good glove at first base.
"I think it puts you in a position where, if that guy can't go play a position, you're stuck with him just being your DH, and you can never give one of your other regulars just a day where they don't have to play the field," Porter said. "Let's say Jose Altuve goes 4-for-4 with two triples and two stolen bases and scores five runs and he runs all over the place. I don't want to take his bat out of the lineup, but I'll say, 'I'm going to get you at DH [the following game],' and whatever position your DH plays, you put him in the field. You still have the DH in the lineup."
• The Astros announced Tuesday that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Astros-Rangers season-opener at Minute Maid Park.
• Porter says he is "getting close" to being able to name a starting pitcher for the March 31 season-opener against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. It will be between right-handers Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, though it is worth pointing out that Harrell is following Norris in the rotation during Grapefruit League play.
• Porter said Humber looked "great" in his simulated game Monday against Minor Leaguers and hinted he was in good standing for a rotation spot.
"You don't want stand here and say anything's going to happen for sure, but I put it like this: He came in competing for a job, and he hasn't done anything to hurt his chances of being one of the guys in the rotation," Porter said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's done well every time we put him out there."
• Astros pitchers Xavier Cedeno (Puerto Rico) and Jose Veras (Dominican Republic) are both expected to return to camp Thursday after representing their respective teams in the World Baseball Classic. Puerto Rico and the Dominican meet for the title Tuesday night.