KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Minor League pitching coordinator Jon Matlack took some extra time following workouts Friday to have a one-on-one, hands-on session with 21-year-old right-hander Jordan Lyles on one of the pitching mounds.
"We're just tweaking some things that people have seen in my delivery that maybe there's more energy I can put into it and the velocity would be greater," Lyles said. "We were really bouncing thoughts off of each other, and he was asking me, 'What am I thinking? What am I doing?' He's trying to get the most out of my frame and my delivery."
Matlack was a three-time All-Star hurler in a playing career that spanned 13 seasons. He also served as Detroit's Major League pitching coach in 1996 and spent eight seasons as a Minor League pitching coach with the White Sox and Padres. The Tigers let him go in August.
Lyles is welcomed to hearing as much advice as he can.
"It's always great to hear another person's view," Lyles said. "I can talk to them about what they see and what ideas they have. You never know what someone could say and it just clicks for you. You never know who it's going to come from or what they're going to say, but the more people you hear from the better. I'm trying to be the best I can be and get everything I can out of myself."
Escalona skips Friday's bullpen session
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros left-handed relief pitcher Sergio Escalona, who hyperextended his left elbow swinging a bat earlier in the week, skipped his third scheduled bullpen session Friday morning as a precaution. He will be reevaluated Saturday.
"We wanted to give it a day of rest," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "He's still going to go through some things on the other fields. He's not going to throw on the other fields. He'll do some bunting, but no hitting. As of right now, we're not concerned about it, because he didn't hurt it while throwing."
Also, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who experienced tightness in his lower back while throwing Thursday, is being closely monitored and is expected to take his scheduled turn on the mound Saturday. Rodriguez did all of his non-throwing drills Friday, but it was tempered.
"If we think it he's going to do something that has the tendency to tweak his back or something, then he's going to go at it a little bit easier," Mills said.
Cedeno thrilled to work in Astros' farm system
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Cesar Cedeno, the former Astros great who won five Gold Gloves as an outfielder in the 1970s, is thrilled at the chance to return to the organization. He was hired last month to be the hitting coach for the club's rookie rookie-league affiliate in Greeneville.
"I'm just happy to be back with the opportunity to work with some of the hitters, most definitely," he said Thursday while hanging out with former teammates Enos Cabell and Jose Cruz on the back fields.
Cedeno, the Astros' Most Valuable Player in 1972, spent 12 seasons (1970-1981) with the club and appeared in four All-Star Games. Following his playing career, he served as a coach or instructor for the organization over 10 seasons (1990-94, 1997-2001), but he hasn't coached full-time since 2009, with Washington.
"I came to Houston recently for a gathering and I wasn't aware that the franchise was 50 years old," Cedeno said. "It's great, but at the same time, you say it's been 50 years and we've never won a championship. I'm just glad to be back and being part of the organization and hopefully bring the dream of everybody, to help the Astros win the World Series."
Braun ruling doesn't generate much attention
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The news that Brewers slugger Ryan Braun had his 50-game suspension overturned didn't generate much attention around a young Astros team that isn't likely to contend in the National League Central this year.
Braun, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, hit .365 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 15 games against the Astros last year. The Astros have five games scheduled with Milwaukee in the Brewers' first 50 games.
"If he's not in the lineup, it's not as good," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "You take Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun out of any lineup, it's not as formidable. He's going to be there, and we're going to go with it and go from there."
The Brewers outfielder on Thursday became the first Major Leaguer to successfully appeal a suspected violation of MLB's Drug Treatment and Prevention Program. The 2-1 ruling from a three-member special panel spared Braun a suspension.