PITTSBURGH -- Astros owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow attended Saturday's and Sunday's games against the Pirates at PNC Park in a surprise trip that came about after both men scouted the University of North Carolina's game against Virginia in Chapel Hill, N.C., earlier Saturday.
Luhnow said it was the first time Crane had been out in person this year to watch potential Draft targets. The Astros have the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on June 6. Luhnow wouldn't say which player they were watching, but North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran is a top prospect.
"We don't comment on Draft-eligible players for obvious reasons, but we continue to put in a lot of time against it, and it was great Jim was willing to go out and see a player with his own eyes," Luhnow said. "We might try another couple before it's all said and done."
Crane was a standout college pitcher at Central Missouri State, so he provides anything but the layman's eye.
"It's a good experience just to understand what scouts go through," Luhnow said. "He's got a great eye. I was impressed. Sitting there at the ballgame and watching his reaction, he's pretty well-calibrated. If he wanted to be a scout, he would be a pretty good one."
The Astros are holding their first of four regional workouts for prospects on Sunday in Los Angeles, with scouting director Mike Elias, national crosschecker David Post and the decision sciences team led by Sig Mejdal looking at about 20 players. The second workout will be held Wednesday in Kissimmee, Fla., at the team's Spring Training complex, the third will be May 26 in Georgia and the final workout will be June 1 at Minute Maid Park. That will also serve as the start of the Astros' pre-Draft meetings, when the front office will begin going over 1,200 players.
Luhnow said he planned to attend the June 1 workout in Houston, and perhaps next week's in Georgia.
"It's more important for Mike and David to be able to see some players they haven't seen, and it's always important for Sig and his group to do an interview process with all the players to get to know them better," Luhnow said. "We also use it as an opportunity for players to ask us questions. They're making a big life decision, and sometimes we forget that. We think we're making all the decisions here, but they've got to decide first if they want to play pro ball and secondly if they want to play pro ball with the Astros.
"They can ask questions to get to know us and ask about life in the Minor Leagues and what happens after the Minor Leagues and what happens when they get to the big leagues. Mike does a great job explaining all of that to them. We have enough people there, they can ask a scout or ask a crosschecker some questions."
Singleton likely to start season with Quad Cities
PITTSBURGH -- Astros top prospect Jonathan Singleton, who is nearing the end of his 50-game suspension after violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse -- his second positive test -- will begin his season sometime next week at Class A Quad Cities before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Sunday.
Singleton, ranked by MLB.com as the top prospect in the Astros organization, was suspended Jan. 9. He later said in a statement he had tested positive for marijuana.
Singleton, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games last year at Double-A Corpus Christi and was expected to push for playing time on the Major League club this year. The Astros acquired him and three other players from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011.
Luhnow didn't have an exact date for Singleton's return, saying it would happen next week. He would likely be eligible to return May 28, which would be the 51st game on Corpus Christi's schedule, and he was on its roster when suspended.
"Right now, it looks like we're going to send him to Quad Cities for a short period of time, and from there go to his next assignment, which will probably be Oklahoma City," he said. "Just give him a chance to play under the lights somewhere else, and Quad Cities is our newest affiliate and we love the ballpark and we love the management team, and it's a good opportunity.
"Whenever we have a chance to send a big leaguer, or close to a big league player there, it strengthens the bond between us and our affiliate."
Cedeno scratched due to sinus problems, virus
PITTSBURGH -- Astros infielder Ronny Cedeno was scratched from the starting lineup Sunday with sinus problems and a stomach virus. That forced Marwin Gonzalez into action as the starting shortstop, even though he's nursing a sore back from a collision in Saturday's game.
"I hope to get better," said Cedeno, who has been unavailable all weekend. "I just don't feel good."
Houston was without both Cedeno and outfielder Brandon Barnes (ankle) in Friday's game, which left manager Bo Porter shorthanded. Barnes appeared in Saturday's game and returned to the lineup Sunday as the starting center fielder. He said he was 100 percent.
Porter didn't reveal he was without Cedeno and Barnes until after Friday's game for strategic reasons, but Cedeno's unavailability Sunday was obvious when he was scratched from the lineup.
"Marwin is still a little shaken up in the collision he had at first base, but with Ronny being unavailable, he's going to have to play shortstop today," Porter said.