Astros' Norris solid in final spring start
Bud Norris' next start against major league hitters will be Houston's season opener against Texas.The Astros right-hander threw six scoreless innings Friday in 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. It came nine days before Norris is scheduled to open the season against the Rangers, one fewer day than the ideal number that would allow for two five-day breaks."He will throw again on the 26th (Tuesday) in a minor-league game," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "It will be a shorter outing than he had today, which will have him ready to come back on regular rest on the 31st for opening day."Norris has had a good spring, and his latest outing might have been his best. He scattered three hits and three walks while striking out four in six innings."I'm really confident with (catcher Jason) Castro back there. We're really getting on the same page, day in and day out," Norris said. "The strength's coming, the pitch count's getting there so I'm definitely winding down. We've got a week left."He made some minor adjustments in an attempt to keep his pitches down, but no major adjustments remain."I've pitched enough years at this level that my pitches aren't going to change overnight," he said. "It's just controlling them and controlling your body and locating the pitches basically, so I'm not tinkering too much. Just making sure my body's ready to go."Rick Ankiel drove in the tiebreaking run with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. It came after Tyler Greene and Jose Altuve opened the inning with singles off Edward Mujica.Jose Valdez got the win in relief for the Astros. Altuve had two of Houston's six hits and scored two runs.St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia also pitched six innings, giving up two runs on four hits while striking out five. Shane Robinson had two of the Cardinals' five hits.Erik Bedard moved a step closer toward claiming the fourth spot in the Astros' rotation by pitching four innings in a minor league game.Porter has announced Norris, Lucas Harrell and Philip Humber will start the first three games, and Bedard lines up as the logical No. 4 starter, although nothing is official."Your guess is as good as mine," said Bedard. "You always think you (deserve a spot), but that's their decision. I'll just wait for them to tell me and then go from there. I think the next start I can go 90 (pitches). After that I'll go over 100, I'll be ready."He threw 70 pitches Friday."He's a veteran. I'm not so much concerned about anything more than his pitch count getting built up," said Porter. "From the reports that I was able to get, there were no problems."NOTES: C Yadier Molina and OF Carlos Beltran, having returned from the World Baseball Classic, are likely to get back in the St. Louis lineup Saturday, although there is some concern about Beltran's toe injury . ... The Cardinals shuffled their batting order Friday, moving Matt Carpenter into the leadoff spot. "I'm trying to get guys in situations they could find themselves in during the season, or at least get exposure to it so it's not foreign," said manager Mike Matheny . ... Jose Veras, Houston's likely closer, got in his first game after returning from the WBC. He pitched 2-3 of an inning . . . Norris threw 84 pitches Friday. He is 2-0 this spring with a 3.92 earned run average over 20 2-3 innings.