WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Left-hander Tony Sipp, who has been sidelined for a few days with back stiffness, threw 28 pitches in relief in the Astros' 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.Sipp struck out lefty Greg Garcia before giving up
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Left-hander Tony Sipp, who has been sidelined for a few days with back stiffness, threw 28 pitches in relief in the Astros' 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Sipp struck out lefty Greg Garcia before giving up a double to Harrison Bader to end a 13-pitch at-bat in which Bader fouled off several balls. He was pulled after walking lefty Kolten Wong to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was encouraged that Sipp threw so many strikes (19), calling his outing a step in the right direction.
"We didn't want him to go too deep into his pitch count, and they fouled off a ton of pitches in the one at-bat," he said. "I went out to get him because he had  pitches, but a step in the right direction. He did throw strikes, and it looks like he was more comfortable throwing his fastball for a strike."
Sipp, the only lefty the Astros have in the bullpen, hasn't appeared sharp this spring, walking five batters in five innings prior to Monday's outing. Still, he said he feels he'll be ready to go for the season.
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"I felt good," he said earlier Monday. "Numbers don't show, but the action on the pitches that I have, I feel like I've executed pitches. I've walked a few more guys than I've wanted to, but I'm trying different things. Typical spring. You're not throwing your best pitches sometimes; you're throwing the pitches that you're working on. If you ask me, I'll feel like I'll be ready to go for the season."
Hinch thinks Sipp can answer the bell.
"Veteran players, I feel a little more confident when the lights turn on and the adrenaline starts and the season starts, there's a flip of the switch that happens oftentimes," he said. "Obviously, I'd prefer guys to go in with a little bit more momentum than I've seen so far, but I trust he'll get himself ready."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.