KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- In four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Jed Lowrie never got more than 309 at-bats in a year. He has a good chance to double that in his first season with the Houston Astros, who acquired the 27-year-old shortstop in December.
"All you can ask for as a player is an opportunity to play," Lowrie said Sunday after hitting his second spring training home run as an Astros' split squad lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-7 in 10 innings. "I've always prepared to be an everyday shortstop, and hopefully I'll get that opportunity and make the most of it."He is hitting .333 after 12 games, mostly from the No. 2 spot in the Houston batting order.Astros manager Brad Mills said he likes a left-handed hitter in that second spot."Wherever Millsy thinks makes us the best team, that's where I'll hit," Lowrie said. "It's not going to change my approach, but I'm comfortable in the two hole. I think in Boston I hit everywhere but third."But he didn't hit every day, and everything indicates he will do that in Houston."It's one of these Catch-22s," he said. "You have to be swinging the bat well to get those at-bats, but you want to get those at bats to swing well. That's why you have to work hard in the offseason and come into spring ready for when you get those at bats."He drove a Brad Lincoln pitch over the right-field wall in the first inning, then hit a ball almost as hard in his second at-bat. That one was caught."I've gotten into a good routine and changed a couple mechanical things, and it's seemed to really help," Lowrie said.Chris Snyder's third home run gave the Astros a 3-0 early lead, but the Pirates came back with a 20-hit offense. Nine of the hits came off starter J.A. Happ, who gave up three runs in five innings.Yamaico Navarro had four hits and Nate McLouth had three for the Pirates, who won it in the 10th inning on singles by Matt Hague, Kelson Brown, Daniel Grovatt and Jarek Cunningham off Enerio Del Rosario.Prospect Jarred Cosart, appearing in his first exhibition game for the Astros, worked 3 1/3 innings, striking out the first three hitters he faced but giving up four runs.
Navarro, Hague and Josh Harrison are making strong bids for backup roster spots with the Pirates. "In fairness to all three, we're going to let `em keep playing and keep evaluating," manager Clint Hurdle said. ... GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates will be patient with RHP A.J. Burnett, who threw for the first time Saturday after surgery on his right orbital bone. "The reality is he's a starting pitcher and he's got to go from zero pitches to 100 pitches to be ready help us win at the major league level, and that takes time. You can't short-circuit that process or you risk further injury and that's the last thing we want to do," Huntington said. ... Astros CF Jordan Schafer, who has missed a week of games with a left hand injury, is to make the trip to Viera for Monday's game against Washington. ... The Astros did not use a DH Sunday because Mills wanted Happ to get a couple of at-bats.