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Keuchel faces hitters for first time this spring

Astros ace taking it slow after heavy workload; Cotts arrives, throws in 'pen
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who's on an individualized throwing schedule this spring, faced hitters for the first time Saturday when Joe Sclafani and Colin Moran got in the box at Osceola County Stadium.

Keuchel and right-hander Lance McCullers are on more deliberate throwing programs than the rest of the pitchers because of their heavy workloads a year ago. McCullers threw his second bullpen session and will face hitters soon.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who's on an individualized throwing schedule this spring, faced hitters for the first time Saturday when Joe Sclafani and Colin Moran got in the box at Osceola County Stadium.

Keuchel and right-hander Lance McCullers are on more deliberate throwing programs than the rest of the pitchers because of their heavy workloads a year ago. McCullers threw his second bullpen session and will face hitters soon.

Astros' Spring Training info

"At this point it's tough trying to envision myself taking it easy, kind of step by step," Keuchel said. "At this point, you see a batter in the box, you want to ramp up to game speed. But it's a process at this point, especially coming off a high volume year last year. I'd love to get back there, so I'm going to take it easy as much as possible, but build slowly but surely to get myself ready for games here in mid-March."

Meanwhile, newcomer Neal Cotts arrived at camp and threw in the bullpen for the first time in an Astros uniform. Cotts, who signed a Minor League deal Friday, has spent 10 years in the Major Leagues with the White Sox, Cubs, Rangers, Twins and Brewers. He has 483 career appearances and has allowed 405 hits in 443 1/3 innings with a 3.96 ERA. He split last year between the Brewers and the Twins, appearing in 68 games.

"He has a good fastball, he has a good cutter," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's really difficult on left-handed hitters and he's trying to work his way around some right-handers. Like all lefties, when they get in, they don't want to be a situation lefty. They want to be able to bridge in a particular inning. He's got good weapons, he's got some savvy, he's got some experience. He's well equipped to help us and potentially make our team."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel