March 31, 2015

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Wandy Rodriguez made his latest bid to earn the final spot in Atlanta's rotation, pitching five innings for the Braves on Tuesday night in their 8-5 loss to the Houston Astros.

Rodriguez yielded three runs against his former team. The diminutive lefty, a non-roster invitee to spring training, has a 3.13 ERA in six games. He struck out eight without issuing a walk, but also gave up a homer to Jed Lowrie.

AL batting champion Jose Altuve had three hits for the Astros, and Colby Rasmus hit a three-run homer.

Rodriguez is trying to land the No. 5 starter job - at least until Mike Minor returns from injury, perhaps in May. Rodriguez said he cringes a bit every time Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez walks past his locker.

''I'm ready to start right now,'' said Rodriguez, who was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in six starts for Pittsburgh last season. ''I just don't know if I made the team.''

Gonzalez said it is time to make a call.

''I've liked what I have seen,'' he said. ''He doesn't shy away from contact and I like that. He's really bringing it, but I still haven't made a decision.''

Houston starter Asher Wojciechowski, a surprise contender for the final spot in the Astros' rotation, allowed one run over 4 1-3 innings to leave his spring ERA at 1.29. Wojciechowski spent last season in Triple-A.

''I'm just happy about how I did this spring,'' he said. ''I came in and competed. I had a lot of fun and I'm still glad to be here.''

Astros manager A.J. Hinch, like Gonzalez, is still waiting to make a decision.

''This was the first game he didn't have his A-plus stuff,'' Hinch said. ''It was good to see him battle.''

Hinch wasn't tipping his hand, but said he would have his 25-man roster set by Wednesday.

A.J. Pierzynski and Eric Young Jr. both had two hits for the Braves. All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel extended his spring scoreless streak to five innings.


Braves: Rodriguez took a line drive off his non-throwing arm but said he was fine and stayed in the game. ... INF Kelly Johnson was hit by a pitch from Kevin Chapman and came out of the game with a bruised left elbow. Johnson, however, said the ball didn't hit bone and he isn't expected to miss any time.


Pierzynski was signed as a free agent last winter, partly to mentor young catcher Christian Bethancourt. Instead, Pierzynski has looked good enough to be a starter. He's batting .351 and has a command of his new pitching staff.

''If we can match him up right there's no reason he can't play 110 games or more,'' Gonzalez said.


Astros: Dallas Keuchel starts Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers.

Braves: Julio Teheran will make his final start before opening day when he faces the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

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