TAMPA, Fla. -- If Astros right-hander Bud Norris was looking for a good challenge to find out where he is three weeks prior to his first start of the regular season, he got one on Saturday afternoon against the Yankees.
Norris, making his second Grapefruit League appearance, allowed five hits, five runs and four walks in three innings during a 6-3 loss to the Yankees. The game served as a good test for Norris, who breezed through his first outing, on March 7 against the Phillies. He pitched four innings in a simulated game on Monday.
"I got a lot of work from the stretch," Norris said. "I made some good pitches from the stretch, and I didn't make some good pitches from the stretch. But that's when you're going to make some big pitches in games. They were longer innings, taxing innings, but you're going to have those days during the regular season."
Norris needed 31 pitches to get out of the first, an inning which included two hits and two walks. He retired the first two batters he saw in the second before walking Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, then giving up a three-run homer to Robinson Cano on an 0-2 pitch. Norris threw a clean third inning, pitching around a pair of walks, to finish at 73 pitches.
"It took me a while to get comfortable out there, get the fastball down," Norris said. "I made a lot of misses up in the zone, and that's when I got hurt. I've got to make the adjustments earlier. It's only my second spring start, and I was happy to get back out there and get that third inning of work and get three outs. That's a positive I take away from today."
Two-inning stint helps Myers regain 'feel'
TAMPA, Fla. -- Considering this year is the first time in his career that Brett Myers has worked out of the bullpen during Spring Training, it's taken him some time to adjust to the schedule and uncertainty of never quite knowing when he's going to get into a game.
Myers worked two scoreless innings in Saturday's 6-3 Astros loss to the Yankees, allowing one hit in his second consecutive strong outing of Grapefruit League play. He threw only one inning in each of his five previous spring outings.
"I did two innings today to make sure all my pitches were working and getting the feel," Myers said. "It's getting there. It's just trying to get into a rhythm. If they give you an inning you're going to throw, something in the game might not allow it to work out that way, so it's kind of tough to figure out when you're going to get up there sometimes.
"When the season starts, everybody will get a feel for where we're going to end up. As the game dictates what's going on, it's easier to prepare. But in these Spring Training games, you never know."
Myers was working on arm strength early in the spring with a steady diet of fastballs, but he's slowly opened his toolbox and mixed in more offspeed stuff. Myers' velocity is also on the rise. On Saturday, he was touching 91-92 mph, which is a tick higher than his average velocity as a starter over the last two years with Houston.
"The last couple of outings, I felt like I was letting the ball go pretty good," Myers said. "I know where the fastball is going to be, but it's the other stuff I have to get comfortable with. I haven't been on the mound as much as I have in the past with starting, so you have to go up there and get a feel for your stuff in games. That's the tough part right now. That's why I wanted to go two innings today and one more time, to make sure everything's in great shape."
Astros manager Brad Mills said that Myers will pitch on back-to-back days twice before the end of spring camp, but not before Wednesday.
Reliever Cedeno has Astros' attention
TAMPA, Fla. -- With reliable lefty Sergio Escalona on the mend from elbow tendinitis, the Astros have other solid left-handed relief options in Wesley Wright, Fernando Abad and Xavier Cedeno, who pitched a crisp inning on Saturday against the Yankees.
Cedeno, who appeared in three games for the Astros last year, his first in the Major Leagues, zipped through the top three hitters in the Yankees' lineup in the fourth inning, striking out Brett Gardner, getting Curtis Granderson to fly out and striking out Robinson Cano one at-bat after the second baseman had hit a three-run homer off Bud Norris.
"It's nice to see him come in and face some pretty good hitters," Astros manager Brad Mills said of Cedeno. "He was able to throw strikes with all his pitches from different angles. I think that was the big thing for him."
Cedeno, 25, struck out 110 batters in 111 2/3 innings in 23 games (19 starts) -- including 14 strikeouts in a June 22 game -- for Double-A Corpus Christi last year before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was 2-3 with a 6.23 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 26 innings, mostly in relief.
"We want this guy to come out and pitch and see what he's got," Mills said. "He really didn't get that many opportunities last year, and the more opportunities we can get him now, the better he gets."
Escalona, meanwhile, threw batting practice Friday and could be ready for game action soon. He was 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 49 games last year with the Astros.
Catcher Humberto Quintero is scheduled to make his first start of the spring on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. CT against the Mets in Kissimmee, Fla. Quintero, who had five at-bats in a Minor League game Friday, hasn't seen any Grapefruit League action because of a bulging disk in his back.
"He's behind, but not as far as what you might think from seeing live pitching," Mills said. "He's behind catching the pitchers and the staff in game situations."