Right-hander Michael Feliz, the Astros' No. 9 prospect, threw five hitless innings and struck out a season-high eight batters on Thursday, when Class A Quad Cities defeated Beloit, 2-1.
Feliz retired the first 13 batters he faced before issuing a one-out walk in the fifth. It was his lone blemish of the night; he faced one batter over the minimum.
Pitching as a part of the piggyback system at Quad Cities, Feliz has thrown 30 2/3 innings in 10 games. He has a 3.52 ERA and a 38-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Right-hander Jandel Gustave relieved Feliz to start the sixth. The inning began with an error before back-to-back singles broke up the Bandits' no-hit bid. A sacrifice fly ended the shutout, but Gustave completed four innings without any more damage and picked up the win.
Springer getting used to media spotlight
HOUSTON -- Coming off a breakthrough road trip in which he batted .400 with six homers and 12 RBIs in eight games, outfielder George Springer was met with a throng of reporters at his locker prior to Thursday's series opener against the Orioles.
Everyone wanted to hear from the hotshot rookie, but veteran catcher Carlos Corporan slid into Springer's chair and acted as spokesman until his teammate was ready. Corporan pulled the nameplate off the top of Springer's locker and held it up as he talked to reporters from the chair.
"He's the man," Corporan said. "The way he's been playing, the way he's been carrying himself, it's amazing."
Springer got off to a slow start after being called up two weeks into the season, hitting .191 in his first 17 games. He didn't hit his first home run until his 78th Major League at-bat, but since then he hasn't slowed down, entering Thursday with a team-high nine homers -- all of them hit in May.
"In the beginning, [Springer] was kind of struggling, and he told me one day, 'I just need to hit one homer, and that will come,'" Corporan said. "He didn't lie. It's pretty amazing. Hopefully, he'll stay forever, right?'"
Corporan eventually ceded the chair to the man the reporters came to hear.
"It was obviously good to get that first [home run] out of the way, but I understand I'm going to go out, and I'm going to play hard and hit the ball, and the home runs will come, along with the infield singles," Springer said. "You just have to go out and play and be who you are."
Springer had six homers in the six games prior to Thursday and was riding a 10-game hitting streak. He's the only rookie in franchise history with six homers in a six-game span. The previous Astros player to do that was Morgan Ensberg, in 2006.
"This an extremely historic franchise," Springer said. "They've had some great players over its history. It's an honor, but there's more to be done."
Crain targeting late June return
HOUSTON -- The schedule is written in pencil, because if there's anything Jesse Crain has learned over the past few months, it's that things can change. Still, the veteran reliever maintains that he's on the path to recovery following biceps tendinitis surgery performed in October.
Crain rejoined his teammates on Thursday after working out for a couple of weeks in Kissimmee, Fla., where he threw off a mound three times without any issues. The Astros had hoped that he would be pitching in games, either on a Minor League rehab assignment or with the big league club, by this time, but he's targeting a late June return.
"We're still taking it day by day, and we have the schedule put in pencil because of all the things we've been through," Crain said. "Sometimes you have to easily erase and change things. I'm feeling good about it. Before I didn't really know what to say, but now I'm starting to feel good about it. That's a good sign."
Crain was an All-Star in 2013, a season in which he posted a 0.74 ERA in 38 games with the White Sox, striking out 46 and walking only 11 in 36 2/3 innings, including a 29-innings scoreless streak. He didn't pitch after being traded to the Rays on July 29 because of the tendinitis. He's also had a bout with bursitis.
"It hasn't gone as smoothly as I would have liked," he said. "It's definitely the hardest thing I've gone through in my career."
Crain would like to throw three or four bullpen sessions and two or three simulated games to face hitters. If those go well, he would go on a short rehab assignment of one week to 10 days, throwing in consecutive games once.
"It's more how I react to all that," he said. "You want to make sure you're able to bounce back and help the team."
Meanwhile, pitchers Matt Albers (shoulder tendinitis) and Anthony Bass (intercostal strain) are in Kissimmee rehabbing. Crain anticipates returning to Kissimmee next month for a short period of time.
Porter keeping six-man rotation for now
HOUSTON -- Manager Bo Porter said on Thursday that he will stick with the six-man rotation through the end of this turn, which goes through Sunday, giving some of his arms some extra rest. Dallas Keuchel is on pace to throw 200 innings for the first time in his career, and Jarred Cosart isn't far behind.
Lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who will start Friday's Civil Rights Game, was called up to start last Saturday in Seattle, giving the starters an extra day of rest. Brad Peacock started on Thursday for the first time since May 18 because of some discomfort he experienced in his elbow last week in Seattle.
Keuchel (Saturday) and Scott Feldman (Sunday) will finish the series against Baltimore, at which point the Astros will use Monday's off-day to return to a five-man rotation. It's unclear which pitcher would be removed from the rotation, so performing well against the Orioles would serve Peacock and Oberholtzer well.
"Starting pitching has been arguably the strong point of our team," Porter said. "Getting them an extra day of rest this time through and giving them an off-day [on Monday] to get another day of rest, we feel like it's going to help us moving forward with the five guys we have in the rotation."