Notes: Lane continues hot hitting

Notes: Lane continues hot hitting

JUPITER -- Jason Lane doesn't know where he'll be when camp breaks in less than two weeks, but he hopes his Spring Training performance is enough to convince the Astros to give him a spot on the Opening Day roster. His performance on Monday certainly didn't hurt his case.

Lane hit two home runs against the Marlins, raising his spring average to .286 (12-for-42). He drove in four runs in a 2-for-3 effort.

Lane, who lost his right field job in '06 after hitting just over .200 in the first two months of the season, appears to be in a neck-and-neck race with Luke Scott for the starting job this year.

"I don't know what they're thinking or what the situation is right now," Lane said. "I'm just trying to keep my head down and get ready for Opening Day and see if I made the team or not."

Garner was especially impressed with Lane's home run effort against the Marlins, considering the wind was blowing in and most would-be homers were dying before the warning track.

"He had to hit those balls pretty doggone good to get them to go out," Garner said. "He's been swinging well. I'm delighted he's been getting some results from all this work he's been doing."

Jennings throws: Jason Jennings was originally scheduled to pitch against the Marlins in Jupiter, but instead he started a Minor League game against the Tigers' Triple-A team in Kissimmee.

Jennings allowed two runs on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts over four innings. He threw 74 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Chad Qualls also pitched an inning in the Minor League game, allowing a two-run homer with no walks and one strikeout. Qualls threw 18 pitches, 13 for strikes.

Brad Ausmus caught both pitchers, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

So-so results for Nieve: Fernando Nieve, a fifth starter hopeful, started the game in Jupiter in Jennings' place, yielding one run over four innings. He gave up five hits and struck out two.

Nieve, who allowed three runs over three innings in his last outing on March 15, felt he had better location this time.

"I felt great physically," he said. "My mechanics felt better today than my last outing. They hit the ball hard a couple times, but it was better this time."

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Garner gave a mixed review on the performance. He was pleased with Nieve's stat line, but wished he could have done it more efficiently.

"He didn't pitch ahead as much as I would like to see," Garner said. "He was behind seven guys and ahead of only four. He was down in the count a few times. The good news is he only gave up one run. The bad news is he's working too hard. I'd like to see him pitch ahead in the count better than that."

Sampson to start: Of all of the pitchers vying for starting jobs, Chris Sampson has received the fewest innings. That should change on Thursday, when Sampson starts the Astros' home game with the Nationals. Brian Moehler, originally slated to start that game, will instead follow Sampson.

Including his one-inning outing Monday, Sampson has pitched 8 2/3 innings this spring. He could go as long as three or four in his next start.

Sampson said he's not worried that he hasn't had enough innings to be properly stretched out to be a starter by opening week.

"I wasn't concerned at all," he said. "I'm pretty versatile. Whatever they need me to do, start or if they think it's best for the team that I'm in the bullpen, then I can do either ... I've had success doing both. Whatever [Garner] thinks is what we're going to go with."

Odds and ends: Wandy Rodriguez will pitch in a Triple-A game on Tuesday while the Astros are off. ... When Grapefruit League play resumes on Wednesday, the Astros will play three consecutive night games, all beginning at 6:05 p.m. CT. They'll host the Devil Rays and Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday and play the Indians at Winter Haven on Friday night. ... Happy birthday to general manager Tim Purpura, who turned 49 on Monday.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.