HOU@NYY: Mier makes a diving stop to end the seventh

JUPITER, Fla. -- This is a big year for former first-round Draft pick Jiovanni Mier, who played in only 51 games in 2012 because of a serious injury and struggled last year at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .194 with five homers and 28 RBIs.

Mier, a shortstop who was taken for the No. 21 overall pick by the Astros in 2009 out of Pomona, Calif., was one of several players from Minor League camp who traveled with the Astros' big league club to face the Cardinals on Sunday.

"The most important thing is I've stayed healthy this spring and had a lot of at-bats," Mier said. "I feel it's going to benefit for me for the season."

As far as last year goes, Mier said it was a learning experience.

"I learned what kind of player I am and what kind of player I should be," Mier said. "Things didn't go the way I wanted them to go, but the past is the past and I'm just going to learn from it and continue to hit."

When asked what kind of player he should be, Mier said: "I've always played hard and gone out there and done what the game has asked me to do, not try to do too much."

Mier was off to a good start in 2012 at Class A Lancaster when he tore his right hamstring trying to stretch a double into a triple in early May. He wound up missing two months. He jokingly blamed former teammate and fellow first-rounder George Springer for the injury.

"He's always making of fun of me because I never go for a triple," Mier said. "I don't know why. There's something about triples I don't like. I was halfway towards second and George came to my mind, and I said, 'I'm going to go for three for George.' I rounded second and the next thing you know, I was laying on the ground with a tear in my hamstring."

Mier, 23, said the goal this year is rebound.

"You never want to take steps back," Mier said. "The years coming up, I know I'm getting older and I want to progress and get better, and hopefully inch my way closer to the big leagues."

Astros to open season without set closer

Porter, Astros turn to closer-by-committee system

JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter said the team will enter the season using a closer by committee, though he'd like to eventually settle on one player to use in that role.

He said earlier this month that Anthony Bass, Josh Fields, Matt Albers, Chad Qualls and lefty Kevin Chapman were candidates to close, so perhaps one of those could get some save chances to start the season. Jesse Crain figures to be in the mix when he returns from biceps tendinitis surgery.

"I think if we had a guy, it would have been decided by now," Porter said. "We will go into the season with a closer by committee and try to look at the best situation given that night in each game."

The Astros struggled mightily to close games last year, especially after trading Jose Veras to the Tigers at the Trade Deadline. Fields, who has had a great spring, got some chances to close games in his rookie season last year. Qualls closed for the D-backs in 2009-10.

"If you have a guy down there that you can say to yourself, 'This guy has separated himself from the other guys that were in the competition,' the information will be in front of you," Porter said. "That's not the case right now. I'm not going to speculate on what's going to happen by April 15, but as we sit here today, that's the situation we're dealing with."

Porter said it's more about having five guys all throwing well as opposed to no great choices.

"All of those guys have done a really good job," Porter said. "When you don't have one guy that has separated himself, you would rather it be the way it is where all those guys are throwing the ball well. That's a good problem to have."

Roster spot secure, but Williams not satisfied

HOU@STL: Porter, Williams discuss start vs. Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- Upon hearing that manager Bo Porter had said earlier on Sunday he was definitely on the Opening Day roster, veteran pitcher Jerome Williams said it changes nothing for him.

"I'm just going to keep on going day by day until Opening Day comes," Williams said. "I've been around this game for a long time, and I'm not satisfied until I'm there Opening Day. Even though it was said by the manager I was there, I'm going to try and work my butt off and try and be that pitcher that I always want to be and try and compete and do well."

Williams, who's battling with Dallas Keuchel, Brad Peacock and Lucas Harrell for the two final spots in the starting rotation, didn't help his case Sunday when he was rocked for nine hits and six runs in four innings in a loss to the Cardinals.

"I've just got to work on throwing a ball not to bats," Williams said. "It was one of those days where balls were just finding bats, and balls were finding holes. I left like three or four pitches up, and they took advantage of it. It's kind of bad that it's happening now at the end of spring. Hopefully, I can just try and turn it around before the season starts."

Williams has made 155 career appearances, including 117 starts, though most of his relief appearances have been in the last three years. While he'd prefer to be a starter, he could be used in long relief or as a spot starter. Last year, he had two outings of relief of six innings or more.

"It don't matter to me," Williams said. "I know I can [pitch in relief]. I've done it for three years. Obviously, I do want to start. But like I said before, as long as I go out there and contribute in any way possible to help the team win, I'll do it. That's my mindset.