March 22, 2015

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Chris Carter hit his second homer of the spring and started an eight-run fifth inning with a double Sunday as the Houston Astros roughed up Charlie Morton in a 14-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Carter went 3 for 3 and drove in two runs for Houston. The first baseman is trying to become a more complete hitter than the one who finished second in the major leagues in home runs (37) and fifth in strikeouts (182) last season.

''I'm trying to stay with my approach, just short and compact. The biggest thing is not missing your pitch when you get it,'' said Carter. ''I've worked on what I finished last season doing, and trying to carry that into the season this year - just staying through the middle and working the other way more.''

Colby Rasmus also hit his second home run and scored three times. Jonathan Villar and Hank Conger drove in three runs each for the Astros.

Right-hander Roberto Hernandez, bidding for a spot in the Astros' starting rotation, gave up one run on three hits in four innings.

''I'm very, very close (to being ready), and every time I throw, I feel more comfortable,'' said Hernandez, who is on his fifth different major league team since the end of 2012. ''I can't control what happens. I just think about throwing strikes and keeping the ball down.''

Morton was chased with one out in the fifth, having allowed seven runs and nine hits.

''Charlie's pouring everything he's got into repeating his delivery,'' said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. ''At times it was in synch, at times it wasn't. The ball ended up up more than it was down. The sinker played without the consistency he needs. He's working, he's healthy, he'll get it right.''

The 34-year-old Hernandez, Hernandez, who did not sign with Houston until Feb. 12 and didn't report until March 5 because of a visa issue, now appears to have a spot in the rotation unless he pitches his way out of it.

Jordy Mercer homered for the Pirates, his second of the spring.


Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen missed eighth straight games with what the Pirates are describing as lower body soreness. ''I anticipate that we'll be able to see him in the field sometime this week,'' Hurdle said.

Astros: LHP Brett Oberholtzer, who last pitched on March 10 because of a lat strain, threw batting practice Sunday and Hinch said he still has ''plenty of time'' to get ready to pitch one of the first five games. ... OF Evan Gattis (sore wrist) played in a minor league game and expects to DH on Monday.


Hurdle on McCutchen, who has only 12 spring at bats: ''We were cognizant going in of trying some things differently with him. We've talked with him about the reps he's had in the past. Every spring he's played, he's gotten the at bats and he's hit .400, he's hit. 500, and the Aprils haven't translated. So we were planning on changing the course of activity anyway.''


Pirates: A.J. Burnett will get his fourth spring start against the Rays at Port Charlotte.

Astros: Scott Feldman will get his third start against the Braves in Kissimmee.

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