WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Jeff Bagwell finally got to make his first throw in a game this spring, and it was right on target.
Too bad it was also underhanded.
Bagwell, trying to convince the Houston Astros that his right shoulder is strong enough for them to keep him, played first base for the second straight day in a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.
In four innings, Bagwell hit two singles, scored twice, got his uniform dirty with some dives in the dirt and made an error in the fifth inning that helped the Indians overcome a 5-0 deficit.
“He got a workout in,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.
After booting Ramon Vazquez’s grounder near the bag, Bagwell picked it up and scooped it to Houston starter Ezequiel Astacio, who was too late covering the bag.
The Astros have been waiting to see how Bagwell’s shoulder holds up once he has to make a tough throw. This one was way too easy.
“That doesn’t count,” Bagwell said of his soft toss. “To be honest with you guys, I’m not really looking to throw. I guess everyone else is.”
Houston thinks Bagwell might be too hurt to play and has filed an insurance claim to recoup about $15.6 million of the $17 million the popular 37-year-old is guaranteed in his final season under contract.
Bagwell hadn’t played consecutive games before Saturday.
“The biggest thing is that I played back-to-back days and I’m no worse for it,” Bagwell said. “I feel OK. I’ve still got a ways to go, though, and I need to feel better than I do right now. My first game I only played two innings and then I couldn’t play the next day. So overall this was good.”
Until Bagwell has to fire a ball to the plate or start a double play, there’s no knowing how his shoulder will respond.
“He hasn’t made a quick, hard throw and we want to see that,” Garner said. “It will happen when it happens. Obviously, we’d like to see it before opening day.”
Bagwell, who underwent shoulder surgery last June, is pleased with how he’s throwing the ball in warmups. But he’s not as anxious to test it out as others.
“The only reason I want to make a throw is to get everyone off my back,” he said.
The Astros took a 5-0 lead after four innings against Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia, who allowed eight hits and five runs in 3 2-3 innings but felt good about his performance.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Houston scored two runs in the third inning and added three in the fourth on Lance Berkman’s run-scoring single off Sabathia and Morgan Ensberg’s two-run single on reliever Ben Howard’s first pitch.
Astacio didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings and cruised into the fourth with a five-run lead. It didn’t take long, however, for things to fall apart.
The Indians scored five runs in the fourth with three hits, two walks, a wild pitch and a hit batter. There was also a stolen base and a wild pitch in one of those mid-March innings teams don’t want to repeat in the regular season.
Cleveland took the lead on Jason Michaels’ two-out RBI single in the sixth.
Notes: The Astros made four errors. ... OF Ryan Mulhern, the Indians’ 2005 minor league player of the year, was reassigned to minor league camp. ... Indians 2B Brandon Phillips was scratched from the starting lineup with a viral infection.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.