Astros hitters get first look at live pitching

Astros hitters get first look at live pitching

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the most challenging days of Spring Training for the hitters is when they step into the box for the first time against the pitchers, who have been in camp for nearly a week and had thrown two bullpen sessions prior to Thursday.

Some Astros hitters used the chance to face live pitching for the first time to simply track the pitches and not swing, while others couldn't wait to take some cuts. The first and second throwing groups threw live batting practice Thursday.

"Today was like the first real assessment of where you really are," first baseman Jon Singleton said. "We really got to see where we are, just tracking baseballs and trying to get pitch recognition and see the spin of the baseball. It was huge."

Astros manager A.J. Hinch wants the hitters to ease into facing pitching for the first time.

"The swings in these cases don't really matter, whether the hitters choose to swing or not," Hinch said. "We're just inching a little bit more towards game-type situations. It seems like everybody came out of it well, and the attention to detail was good. We had a lot of work going on in an effective time. It was a good day."

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel said he was throwing at about 80 to 85 percent intensity.

"You start ramping it up a little bit and the competitive juices start flowing and you want to go full tilt," he said. "I was trying to keep laid back as much as possible coming from the bullpens and the first lives [because] you don't want to blow it up too much, but it felt real good to get back out there."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.