HOU@ATL: Fowler hits an RBI single to left field

HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter has played coy with his lineups all spring long. But with the season just two days away, Porter finally let his Opening Day lineup slip after Sunday's 6-1 exhibition win.

"I don't mind sharing," Porter said, before rattling off the Astros' starting nine for Tuesday's game against the Yankees.

Here's the order Porter revealed:

1. Dexter Fowler CF
2. Robbie Grossman LF
3. Jose Altuve 2B
4. Jason Castro C
5. Jesus Guzman 1B
6. Chris Carter DH
7. Matt Dominguez 3B
8. L.J. Hoes RF
9. Jonathan Villar SS

Fowler was a regular in the Rockies lineup last season, while Altuve, Castro, Carter and Dominguez were full-time starters for the Astros in 2013. Grossman, Hoes and Villar all started at least 42 games for Houston last year.

The lineup is very similar to the one the Astros trotted out against the Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz in Saturday's 2-0 exhibition win, with Marc Krauss playing instead of Guzman. In that game, Houston struggled to hit Veracruz pitching, with the Astros regulars getting just three hits in four innings. A sacrifice fly and a Fowler solo homer provided the game's only runs.

Houston hosts New York in Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night in the first of three games to begin the 2014 season.

Astros finalize roster, prepare for Opening Day

MIA@HOU: Hoes' RBI single puts Astros on the board

HOUSTON -- The Astros set their 25-man roster on Sunday and officially placed right-handers Jesse Crain, Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski on the 15-day disabled list.

Eight Astros will make their debut on an active Opening Day roster on Tuesday, a list that includes left-handed pitchers Kevin Chapman, Dallas Keuchel and Brett Oberholtzer, right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart, outfielders Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes and Marc Krauss and shortstop Jonathan Villar.

Meanwhile, nine of the 25 players were on Houston's Opening Day roster last year: right-handers Brad Peacock, Lucas Harrell and Josh Fields, catchers Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan, infielders Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez and Marwin Gonzalez and designated hitter Chris Carter.

The other players to make the roster are right-handers Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls and Jerome Williams, infielder/outfielder Jesus Guzman and outfielders Dexter Fowler and Alex Presley.

Crain is with the team recovering from biceps tendinitis surgery and could be active by the end of the April. White, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago, and Wojciechowski, who suffered from a strained lat all spring, are both at extended Spring Training in Florida.

Oberholtzer critical of successful start to cap spring

Outlook: Consider Oberholtzer for AL-only formats

HOUSTON -- At first glance, Brett Oberholtzer's final outing of the preseason was a rousing success.

Everyone from manager Bo Porter to center fielder Dexter Fowler was complimentary of the lefty's six innings of shutdown ball on Saturday in the Astros' 2-0 win against the Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz of the Mexican League.

That is, everybody except for Oberholtzer. While he called it a "step forward," the southpaw still lamented leaving some pitches in the heart of the strike zone.

"That's why I'm not overly happy about it," Oberholtzer said. "I know some of the pitches I did throw more than likely would have gotten hit [by Major Leaguers]. It's a learning experience."

Oberholtzer said he's trying not to get hung up on results and focus on the process -- and pitches -- that will ultimately make for a consistent season.

"I felt good and the results were good, but I still have work to do," Oberholtzer said. "That comes every day with work, coming to the ballpark and being a pro."

Oberholtzer mostly used fastballs during his 58-pitch, two-hit outing. He said that the offspeed stuff was kept to a minimum after advice from some Minor League comrades on the split-squad roster.

"I got some insight from [Japhet] Amador and Leo [Heras], who played in the Mexican League," Oberholtzer said. "They told me, 'Slow bats.' So we pounded the fastball, and just mixed in the changeup and curveball to keep them from keying on it."

With the Yankees coming to town for Oberholtzer's season debut, though, the lefty wasn't willing to let that sparingly-used curveball off the hook.

"It's never where I want it to be," Oberholtzer said. "It's coming along. It's moving in the right direction. My direction to the plate felt better and the results showed a little bit. There's still a ways to go."

Starters rest for final exhibition game

HOU@TEX: Nolan Ryan, Porter on playing in Alamodome

HOUSTON -- For the players who will take the field against the Yankees on Tuesday, Saturday's exhibition game was their final work before Opening Day.

Manager Bo Porter said most of the guys playing against the Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz on Sunday aren't on the 25-man roster, with the regulars getting two full days off before New York comes to town.

"It's pretty set," Porter said of the roster. "Most of the guys that aren't playing [Sunday], the reason they're not playing today is they're on the team. [Carlos] Corporan is catching, just because he's our backup catcher and I want to make sure he's ready to go."

Saturday's starting nine could easily be a regular lineup for Houston, as newcomer Dexter Fowler complemented established starters such as Jason Castro, Jose Altuve and Matt Dominguez.
They didn't leave a strong final impression, as Veracruz starter Tomas Solis shut them down through three innings. Fowler did add a home run in the fourth, but Astros regulars managed just three hits in four innings against the Mexican League Triple-A affiliate.

Porter said he's not concerned about that performance, instead preferring to emphasize health over reps at this point in the spring.

"I'm excited about getting through the spring mostly healthy," Porter said. "As long as nobody slips on a banana peel between now and Tuesday, we'll be good."

Worth noting

• Porter said recently acquired outfielder Presley could see some immediate platoon action with Hoes.

"[Alex] is a plus platoon against righties and L.J. is a plus platoon against lefties. When you have a guy who's left-handed, complements your team, can play different positions and pinch-hit late, it gives you flexibility to make different moves throughout the course of the games."

• According to Porter, All-Star catcher Castro could see a few more reps at DH this season. With 13 games in 13 days and 26 in the first 27 days to open the season, Porter said he'll look for any chance to slot Castro in as a designated hitter.

"I have a plan mapped out for him, but certainly you want to take advantage of keeping his bat in the lineup and still keeping him healthy," Porter said. "That plan will also depend on the daily communication between us, and I know he'll be honest with me about how he's feeling."