Notes: Scott could open in right field
Astros' Garner staying mum on Opening Day lineup, rotation
HOUSTON -- Manager Phil Garner has decided who he's slotting into right field on Opening Day, but prior to Friday's game with the Kansas City Royals, he would offer only minimal hints, indicating that he's not quite ready to reveal his final pick.
It's between Jason Lane and Luke Scott, both of whom will be on the Opening Day 25-man roster. The only question is who will trot out of the dugout when the Astros take the field against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Reading between the lines, it's probably Scott. Garner said he wouldn't have a problem pitting Scott, a left-handed hitter, against Monday's Pirates starter Zach Duke, also a lefty.
Garner also acknowledged Scott, who hit a homer off left-hander Jimmy Gobble on Friday, had a "leg up" on the competition heading into Spring Training due to his performance after he was called up in July of last year.
Regardless, Garner, who is leaning toward not using a straight platoon situation throughout the season, craftily kept his comments vague enough Friday to continue the spring-long right-field saga.
"Jason and Richard [Hidalgo] and Luke were all fighting for jobs," Garner said. "Luke obviously had a leg up because of how he finished last year in the second half of the season. Luke carried us for a while. Jason had to compete because he was competing to stay on the ballclub. He did. I was influenced by what happened in spring, certainly, with him. And certainly with Luke, too."
Scott, who hit .250 (15-for-60) over 24 games in Florida and was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer Friday, hopes he's the choice Opening Day.
"It's what you set your goals on," he said. "You want to be an Opening Day starter, and that's why you work hard to get results. I've done all I can do to get myself ready, and I feel like I'm ready."
Scott and Lane, who hit .271 during Grapefruit League play, will likely learn their fate following Saturday's game. Garner will probably announce his Opening Day lineup at that time, as well as his rotation.
Williams at home: Woody Williams' regular-season debut is Wednesday, but the Houston native received his first taste of pitching at Minute Maid Park with the Astros on Friday when he faced the Royals.
The 40-year-old right-hander fully admits he has wanted to play for the Astros for most of his career, and he admitted he felt a little extra adrenaline when he took the mound for the first time.
"I still can't believe I'm over here," Williams said. "It's probably going to feel that way the whole season. I'm an Astros fan, born and raised, and I couldn't get enough of them. I still can't get enough of them."
Ready for season: Rick White needed only six pitches to retire the side in a Minor League outing on Wednesday, and the right-hander further proved he has conquered his groin issues when he pitched a scoreless ninth Friday night against the Royals.
White, a non-roster invitee, did not allow a run in nine spring outings, spanning 13 innings. Now he just has to hope it was enough to merit a spot on the Opening Day roster as a member of what is likely to be a seven-man bullpen.
"I'm extremely happy that I feel good," he said. "I would be even happier if I knew the outcome of what's going to happen in the next day. But I don't know the answer to that."
Milestone ahead: With 1,000 career managerial wins within reach this year, Garner joked Craig Biggio is going to ruin it for him with his own silly little milestone.
"Bidge is going to upstage me again, isn't he?" Garner laughed.
Garner is 73 wins from the 1,000 mark, which would make him the 55th manager in history to win at least 1,000 games. Biggio, of course, is within striking distance of the 3,000 hits, needing 70 to get there.
Winning 73 games over the course of a season would constitute a very bad year, so Garner's hoping the Astros' 73rd victory arrives sooner than, say, Sept. 30.
"It better be the end of July," he said.
Royally connected: The visiting Royals have a slew of uniformed personnel who once were affiliated with the Astros. Manager Buddy Bell played for Houston in 1988, and bench coach Bill Doran was the Astros' second baseman from 1982-90.
Catcher John Buck was a prospect in the Astros' Minor League system until he was traded to Kansas City as part of a three-team trade that brought Carlos Beltran to Houston. Octavio Dotel, who was also involved in that Beltran trade (he was dealt to Oakland), is now a member of the Royals bullpen.
Right-hander Scott Elarton, who won 17 games for the Astros in 2000, is hoping to return to the Royals rotation in mid-May after recovering from surgery, and right-hander Brandon Duckworth, an Astros pitcher for parts of 2004 and 2005, is slated to open the season as Kansas City's No. 5 starter.
Up next: The Astros and Royals will finish their two-game exhibition series Saturday afternoon, beginning at 1:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will face Duckworth.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.