3/17/2014 2:28 P.M. ET
Astros filling out NCAA tourney brackets
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament means people all over the country are filling out brackets to compete against their friends, and things are no different in the Astros' clubhouse.
Astros reliever Kevin Chapman, who played baseball at the University of Florida, was brimming with confidence about whether his Gators would win another national title.
"They'll be winning the championship in all my brackets," he said.
Chapman, who needs to only complete an internship to finish his degree in sports management at Florida, could have a chance to see the top-seeded Gators play in the South Regional this weekend in Orlando, just a short drive from Kissimmee.
"I haven't seen a game in three or four years, but when I was in school I knew some of the guys," he said. "I'm pretty pumped that they're on top of the college basketball world right now. You've got a good feeling about this tournament. I think they've got a strong team."
Astros alter pitching plans due to weather
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With heavy rains and thunderstorms forecast for Central Florida on Monday, the Astros altered their schedule to make sure starting pitchers Brett Oberholtzer and Jerome Williams -- both originally scheduled to throw against the Braves in Grapefruit League play -- got their work in prior to the weather.
Both pitchers started a Minor League intrasquad game between the team's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates at 9 a.m. ET. Oberholtzer threw 75 pitches in five innings, and Williams threw 75 pitches in six innings.
"The last thing you want in Spring Training is to get your starters backed up and you're trying to find innings as you go along and you can't get an opportunity to get them built up," manager Bo Porter said. "It's been great to have these camp games and allow these guys to stay on turn and get their work in and get built up."
Oberholtzer looked sharp, getting a lot of swings and misses and not allowing a ball to get batted into the outfield.
"I was a little disappointed I couldn't get out there and face the Braves and get that feeling of pitching in a big league game again," he said. "It's been a while, but you know what? The most important thing is I got in my work and stayed focused on the task at hand, and that's making quality pitches when I can."
Williams is competing for a spot in the rotation, though he remains an ideal candidate to be a swing man if he can't crack the starting five.
"There were a couple of games I was leaving the ball up in the zone, and fortunately I was getting outs, but I know during the season they're not going to be outs," he said. "I'm going to get hurt. I'm just trying to work on throwing the ball down in the zone."
Bass open to any bullpen role, including closing
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When Astros manager Bo Porter laid out candidates to begin the season as closer on Sunday, it was somewhat of a surprise to hear him mention right-hander Anthony Bass.
Bass, acquired in a trade with the Padres, certainly throws hard, but he doesn't have much experience at all closing out games. Bass has appeared in 75 career games (18 starts) with the Padres the previous three seasons, getting one save.
"I'm ready for whatever role they give me in the bullpen," Bass said. "It doesn't really matter to me. Every out is important in the game, whether it be the ninth inning, eighth, seventh, sixth, fifth, whatever. It's definitely something that I'd love to do one day. If that's what he wants, then I'll be ready."
During one of his spring outings earlier this month, Bass was hitting 93-96 mph with his fastball, 86-89 with his slider and 87 with his changeup, which Bass said is probably a little too strong.
"I've had a couple of rough [outings], but that's going to happen in the spring," Bass said. "You're trying to fine-tune everything now. My biggest thing is how my arm's feeling at this point now, and it's strong, healthy and no pain. The fastball is coming out nicely and the breaking ball is crisp. That's what I'm really focused on. The changeup is coming along. A little too firm, but working on slowing that down."