Peacock adds to spring resume for starter job
Games for James; Guduan may land in 'pen; Altuve close to return
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Brad Peacock maintained his grip on the fifth spot in the starting rotation by throwing three scoreless innings in relief, allowing three hits, for the Astros in Monday's 6-3 win over the Mets at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Peacock, who pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen last year after splitting between the rotation and relief in 2017, hasn't allowed an earned run in eight innings this spring and has a leg up in the competition on lefty Framber Valdez, who started Monday's game and allowed three runs on six hits and one walk in three innings.
"Brad was good. He was a little less sharp than he normally is just because of where we are in Spring Training," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He had good innings and was fine. It's standard operation Brad Peacock -- pretty clean outing and got his outs."
Valdez has given up six earned runs, 13 hits and five walks in 9 1/3 innings this spring. The Mets batted around against him in the second inning and scored three times with several hard-hit balls.
"We saw some good things and saw also some things [Valdez] struggled with," Hinch said. "His command inside the strike zone today was a little rough and that's why the ball was elevated a little bit. [He] couldn't land his breaking ball and got hit pretty hard. We'll keep trying to get him comfortable getting into some counts, use the stuff to his advantage. When you make a mistake at this level, even at Spring Training, he can get hit a little bit hard. I was proud of him for coming back after his bad inning and [then] had a relatively good inning."
James closer to game action
Pitcher Josh James, who suffered a strained right groin working out on Feb. 24, will take his final step toward his first Grapefruit League action Tuesday when he throws his second live batting-practice session on the back fields at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
"I'm excited," Hinch said. "I'm glad he's going to finally get on the mound. He sounds ready to go and that's a good sign."
James, who made his debut last year and was throwing 100 mph in the playoffs, came to camp as a candidate for the starting rotation, but the injury meant he wouldn’t pitch enough innings to get in the mix here. He should be able to appear in about four games before the season starts.
"It's been feeling great," James said. "I've been running and changing direction and doing sprints and everything is feeling good. I'm excited to move forward. I'm especially excited for [Tuesday]. I'm ready to get going."
Guduan may slide into 'pen
Left-hander Reymin Guduan has made a push to land the final spot in the bullpen after allowing three hits and two runs and striking out seven batters in five innings this spring. Guduan pitched in 22 games for the Astros in 2017 but only three for the big club last year while spending most of the season at Triple-A Fresno.
Hinch said when Guduan is around the strike zone and using his slider correctly, he can be an effective weapon. Hinch wants him to throw his slider even more.
"When he's spraying the ball all over the place, it's hard to get him through a complete outing," Hinch said. "I love the good version of him because he can be dominant. He does some things you don't normally see -- a lefty throwing in the upper 90s with the power slider he has. He's very resilient and can be used every day. All things that make him part of the competition for the bullpen spot."
Hinch said All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who's been dealing with general left side soreness, should start baseball-related activities on Wednesday. The hope is he can get back into Grapefruit League games as early as Friday.
Justin Verlander will make his fourth Grapefruit League start for the Astros when they face the Nationals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches at 5:35 p.m. CT Tuesday. Verlander was named as Houston's Opening Day starter on Friday. The Astros are the visiting team against the Nationals.