Luhnow on Crain's return, sending Appel to Florida

BALTIMORE -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who is deep in preparations for next month's First-Year Player Draft, was in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday to get another look at North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, who's among the players the team is considering for the top pick.

Rodon threw seven innings and held Wake Forest to one unearned run, four hits and one walk while striking out nine batters and pitching around a rain delay. In his last five outings, Rodon (5-7) has a 0.70 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 11 walks. His ERA is now 1.73.

In keeping with his policy, Luhnow won't discuss Rodon's performance or any of the players the Astros are scouting.

"We're still gathering information," he said. "That really won't stop until we convene in Houston and get everybody in a room and talk about the players. I know where I personally stand, but I haven't seen these guys near as much and seen nearly as many guys as everybody else."

Luhnow, scouting director Mike Elias, national crosschecker David Post and all the Astros scouts will gather at Union Station on June 1 for five days of meetings leading up to the Draft. The team will also hold an invitation-only workout for prospects June 2 at Minute Maid Park.

They will also have workouts for top prospects on May 18 in Los Angeles, May 26 in Atlanta and May 28 at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., as they've done in past years.

Former Astro Norris enjoying time with O's

Norris reacts to trade to the Orioles, leaving Astros

BALTIMORE -- Veteran pitcher Bud Norris, who was traded from the Astros to the Orioles last July, has settled in nicely with his new club, he said Saturday. It didn't hurt that he's pitching pretty well, going 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA in his first six starts of the season for the first-place Orioles.

"It's been great," Norris said. "Getting down to my first [spring] camp in Sarasota was nice with new scenery, and they've got a great facility. There's a great work ethic from top to bottom from an organizational standpoint, and obviously it's a tight division race and being in first place has been great."

Norris was drafted and developed by the Astros and went 34-46 with a 4.33 ERA in five years in Houston, which dealt him to the Orioles in exchange for outfielder L.J. Hoes, Minor League pitcher Josh Hader and a competitive balance pick in this year's Draft. The trade was one of several the Astros made in which they shipped off an established player for younger players.

Norris admitted a change of scenery was probably needed.

"It was a great time for me and my career and we'll see what's next for me," he said. "I can't say thank you enough and express my gratitude for my years in Houston. They got me to the big leagues and I established myself in the big leagues and left it all on the field in the city for a bunch of years. I wouldn't change it, but things happen for a reason and I'm glad it did and this is where I'm supposed be, winning ballgames and hopefully helping this team win some more."

Norris said he keeps in touch with catcher Jason Castro and pitchers Jarred Cosart and Dallas Keuchel, and even some of the newer faces like pitchers Brad Peacock and Brett Oberholtzer. But he's very much put Houston in his rearview mirror.

Cosart to pitch in front of mom on Mother's Day

HOU@DET: Cosart holds Tigers to one unearned run

BALTIMORE -- When he starts Sunday for the Astros on Mother's Day, right-hander Jarred Cosart will be wearing some new pink cleats and a pink necklace to honor his mother, Cindy, who will be in the stands at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"For mama," he said.

Cindy Cosart and her middle son, Jake, were scheduled to meet Jarred on Saturday night in Baltimore to be able to spend Mother's Day together.

"I sent her a picture of [the shoes] and she thought it was pretty cool," Cosart said. "It will be fun to try to have a good showing on her day. It will be fun."

Jake Cosart is a pitcher at Seminole State College in Florida who's projected to go in the fourth or fifth round of next month's First-Year Player Draft. He'll most likely get drafted much higher than his older brother, who went in the 38th round to the Phillies in 2008 out of Clear Creek High School in the Houston suburb of League City.

For now, the Cosart brothers are focused on their mother.

"I haven't seen him in a while, and any time mom can come on a road trip is neat," Cosart said. "It just happens to be Mother's Day, so even better."

Porter searching for best lineup combination

HOU@DET: Porter discusses Keuchel's strong start

BALTIMORE -- Astros manager Bo Porter is still looking for the right lineup combinations, which has been a challenge considering the team's offensive struggles. Porter put Matt Dominguez back in the No. 4 spot in the order Saturday after trying Chris Carter and Jesus Guzman there in recent days.

Dominguez entered Saturday hitting .333 (5-for-15) in his last four games, including a two-run homer Thursday in Detroit. He had a pair of doubles in Friday's series opener.

"I'm just trying to get someone that we can actually put there and leave them there that can drive in some runs with men in scoring position," Porter said. "Dominguez has swung the bat much better now. I'm just trying to find someone to drive in runs."

Porter doesn't necessarily buy into the theory that hitting fourth brings some added pressure.

"With a young guy it could," he said. "I always try to tell them, and this is more of a mental thing than anything, just hit the way you're going to hit. If you come up with two men on base and you're hitting eighth, it doesn't matter where you're hitting."

Porter also dropped Jonathan Villar back to the bottom of the lineup Saturday after he hit second the previous two games. Porter said it had nothing to do with the performance of Villar, who was unable to get a key bunt down in the sixth inning Friday, but rather that catcher Jason Castro had returned to the top of the lineup after sitting out two games.

Worth noting

Luhnow said he plans to talk to team doctors on Monday about the injury to relief pitcher Jose Cisnero, who's since been put in the disabled list. He injured his elbow pitching Tuesday in Detroit, but team is only saying he has elbow discomfort at this point.