Notes: Lane pushing for time in right
Offseason focus on flexibility paying off at the plate
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Don't look now, but Jason Lane has progressed from runnerup to strong contender in the race for right field.
Lane, presumably behind Luke Scott for the Opening Day nod at the coveted outfield spot, is clearly not going down without a fight. After going 0-for-1 on Tuesday, the 30-year-old is hitting .345 this spring, logging 10 hits in 29 at-bats.
Scott, who ended the 2006 season as the starting right fielder after putting together a torrid second half, is hitting .304 this spring, with seven hits in 23 at-bats.
Bringing up the rear is Richard Hidalgo, who with four hits in 27 at-bats is hitting .148.
For Lane, the key to this spring is to maintain his focus on doing well on the field and not worry about where he may end up when camp breaks at the end of the month.
"I just think my mentality toward it, as far as what my situation is, I feel like I'm just getting myself ready to get to play somewhere on Opening Day," he said. "I'm fairly confident I can play somewhere for someone."
Lane altered his workout regimen during the offseason, focusing more on flexibility than strength, which appears to have helped his swing.
"I think the physical changes he made by gaining some flexibilty, he lost a little bit of weight in his midsection, and to me, he has better flexibility," manager Phil Garner said. "And I think it's showing up in his abilty to swing the bat a little better."
At this point, the right-field race includes only Lane, Scott and Hidalgo. Hunter Pence continues to hit in Spring Training, but will not be considered for right field.
"I am not putting him in the mix for that now," Garner said. "Other things would have to happen. You don't want to discount what Hunter's doing. He's playing well, he continues to play well and that's going to carry some weight. But right now, we have these other guys that are tops on the list."
Status quo: As the Opening Day starter, Roy Oswalt sees Spring Training as nothing more than a time to sharpen his pitches and make sure his arm is ready for April 2.
After pitching four innings against the Braves on Tuesday, Oswalt said he is almost ready for the regular season.
"I felt pretty well today," he said. "That's the good thing. I felt a lot of energy. I felt like I could throw two or three more innings."
Oswalt, who allowed two runs on seven hits with no walk and four strikeouts, threw 59 pitches -- 44 for strikes. He said he worked on his changeup and slider early in the outing and progressed with fastballs later.
"Everything felt good tonight," he said. "I didn't walk anybody. I was throwing strikes. That's a good thing."
Preview: Because the Braves' complex at Disney is only a 20-minute drive from the Astros' facility at Osceola County Stadium, most of the veterans and projected starters make this quick "road" trip.
Tuesday's lineup looked a lot like the one Garner may use on Opening Day on April 2.
"You can speculate that," he said.
The lineup: Craig Biggio, 2B; Chris Burke, CF; Lance Berkman, 1B; Carlos Lee, LF; Morgan Ensberg, 3B; Scott, RF; Adam Everett, SS, Brad Ausmus, C, Oswalt, P.
Lee played in left field for the first time since March 4. Since then, he served as the designated hitter for three games, while nursing a sore right shoulder.
Ringa-ding-ding: The Astros player development system will celebrate the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks' 2006 Texas League Championship on Wednesday during a ring ceremony at the Osceola County Stadium complex. Players and staff of the Hooks will be presented with their championship rings.
Seven members of the '06 Hooks club are currently in Major League camp, including Matt Albers, Josh Anderson, Kevin Davidson, Paul Estrada, Juan Gutierrez, Troy Patton and Pence.
Odds and ends: General manager Tim Purpura said the Astros are not interested in pursuing catcher Javy Lopez, who was released by the Rockies on Monday. ... Pitching coach Dave Wallace was given permission to leave Kissimmee on Tuesday in order to fly to New Jersey to attend a memorial service for John Vukovich, the longtime Phillies player and coach who passed away from a second bout with brain cancer. Wallace, who had known Vukovich since the early 1970s, returned in the middle of the Astros game at Disney. "I'm glad I went," Wallace said. "But it was tough. It was very good and unbelievable, the amount of baseball people that were there. It was nice."... After playing three games on the road, the Astros are home for their next three. Jason Jennings will start for the Astros on Wednesday against the Braves (Atlanta will counter with Chuck James in the 12:05 p.m. CT start), while Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to start Thursday against the Marlins. Woody Williams will start Friday against the Yankees.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.