KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jed Lowrie likes the way his swing feels so far from both sides of the plate, but he knows the true test will come beginning Saturday with the start of Grapefruit League play. Lowrie will start at shortstop against the Nationals.

"I felt great in batting practice, but that's why you have to go into the games and see where you're at," he said. "That's where you make adjustments, once the game speed comes and guys are up there trying to get you out. I'm really happy where it's at, but I'm looking forward to getting out there tomorrow."

Lowrie is a career .214 hitter as a left-hander and a .326 hitter as a right-hander, which is his natural side. He said his left-handed swing takes more maintenance, especially considering he's had a few injuries on his left side the last few years.

"Right now, they're both equally as good," he said. "We'll know more tomorrow where it's at."

Barnes brings gift to Astros manager Mills

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- As the Astros gathered to stretch Friday for the first time this spring on the stadium field at the Osceola County Stadium complex, manager Brad Mills singled out outfielder Brandon Barnes during his morning address to this team.

Earlier in the day, Barnes gave Mills a Transformers watch to replace the watch the manager had shattered when a foul ball came through the back of the batting cage Wednesday. The ball destroyed Mills' watch and then struck him in the face, causing a black eye. Mills wore the watch during Friday's workout.

"That's pretty good for a young kid to do that," Mills said. "I told the guys if we screw up on the time today, it's Brandon's fault, because of the Transformers watch."

Barnes, who split last year between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City, felt bad about hitting the manager.

"I thought I would buy it as a little joke," Barnes said. "He took it pretty well. He had no hard feelings about it. I'm young and coming to camp for the first time, and when you hit the manager, it's hard to get out of your mind. I tried to have a little fun with it."

How much did the watch set Barnes back?

"About $6.99," he joked.

Astros keep Escalona shut down for a few days

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The good news for Astros pitcher Sergio Escalona is an MRI revealed no structural damage to his ailing left elbow, but he still won't be cleared to throw for a few days, manager Brad Mills said Friday.

Escalona, who went 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 49 games with the Astros last year, injured his elbow swinging a bat last week. Mills said the lefty specialist feels the most pain when he throws his curveball and changeup and not as much on his fastball.

"We're going to give him a few days until it starts calming down," Mills said. "I don't know exactly [how long], but probably four or five days he'll be shut down, upwards to six days. He needs to start feeling better before he starts throwing and gets his arm strength back up to face hitters."

Meanwhile, third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who's nursing a sore left wrist, is taking batting practice left-handed, but is still not cleared to swing from the right side of the plate. It could be a few days before he sees any Grapefruit League action.

Myers to throw relief inning for Astros vs. Nats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the first time in his career, right-hander Brett Myers is preparing this spring to be in the bullpen. He's scheduled to throw one inning in relief for the Astros on Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener against Washington.

Myers, who has been a starter in all but one of his 10 years in the Major Leagues, is being moved into the closer role. He closed for the Phillies in 2007, but was moved into that role after starting the season in the rotation.

Astros manager Brad Mills would like to see Myers throw back-to-back days, but not right away.

"We're going to see how he throws and try to build him up," he said. "I don't know if we'll throw him three days in a row, but I'd like to get back-to-back with him at least twice. He'll throw at least three times a week moving forward."

Myers, who has thrown the fifth-most innings in the National League the past two years, was 5-5 with 21 saves and a 2.87 ERA in 48 relief appearances with the Phillies in 2007. He was moved back to the rotation after the Phillies acquired Brad Lidge from the Astros.

Worth noting

• Astros manager Brad Mills announced the next two starters in his rotation following Livan Hernandez (Saturday), J.A. Happ (Sunday) and Jordan Lyles (Monday). Wandy Rodriguez will start Tuesday against the Mets, and Bud Norris will start Wednesday against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla.

Among the relievers scheduled to pitch behind Hernandez is Brandon Lyon, who will be pitching in a game for the first time since May.

• The batting order has yet to be announced, but Mills revealed his starters for Saturday's game against the Nats: Chris Johnson (third base), Jed Lowrie (shortstop), Jose Altuve (second base), Brett Wallace (first base), J.B. Shuck (left field), Jason Bourgeois (center field), Travis Buck (right field), Castro (catcher) and Jack Cust (DH).

• Carlos Lee was initially slated to start at first base, but he was scratched due to a mild right hamstring strain. Wallace got the nod in his place.

• Top prospect Jonathan Singleton, who was moved to first base from the outfield after the Astros acquired him from the Phillies last year, has been getting outfield practice after workouts every other day. "I'm used to playing infield because I played it all my life," Singleton said. "I like that position and feel more involved, but outfield's a position you have to get used to."