Behold Lo

Astros righty Chia-Jen Lo could be in majors soon





HOUSTON—Righthander Chia-Jen Lo will come to major league spring training as a non-roster invite, and the club is hopeful that when they part ways after camp, it won't be for long.

Front office officials peg the prospect of seeing Lo in Houston in his second year in the organization within the realm of possibility.

"It's something (general manager Ed Wade) and I have talked about," assistant GM Ricky Bennett said. "He's not afraid. He's a pretty mature kid. He's got experience in international competition. I think all those things play a factor. I think it's realistic that we have a chance to see him in 2010."

Lo signed with the Astros out of Taiwan before the 2009 season as the first prospect out of their new Asian scouting effort. He split 2009 between high Class A Lancaster, where he adjusted to American baseball at a level below his ability, and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had to use his full repertoire for the first time.

In Lancaster, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound reliever got by on a low to mid-90s fastball that impressed scouts, but he spent the second half of the season trying to get away from relying on that pitch, with mixed success.

Statistically, he excelled in Corpus Christi with the exception of a higher-than-desired 20 walks in 39 innings (4.6 per nine, the same as his Lancaster figure). He had a 2.31 ERA in Double-A with exactly one strikeout per inning. However, he did get by from time to time leaning on the fastball when he was in trouble, and the organization would still like to see more from his curve and changeup.

"He really started to show progress with his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes," Bennett said. "I think he gained confidence in doing it. We started to see it a little more often, which is good. He's not there yet, but we definitely saw progress."

He had been working largely in a one-inning role, but the Astros would like to give him multiple innings this year. Lo will turn 24 on the eve of Opening Day at Triple-A Round Rock, which could be the site of the next step on his road to the majors."I know he's going to get an opportunity to compete and make the club in Round Rock," Bennett said. "If he comes in and shows us that he's ready to do it, I don't see why he couldn't handle that level."

SPACE SHOTS

• Top prospect Jason Castro, 22, officially received his non-roster invitation to big league camp. Castro, taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, will compete for a job with J.R. Towles and Humberto Quintero.

• Houston hired former farmhand and former major leaguer Hector Mercado as Rookie-level Gulf Coast League pitching coach, completing its minor league staffs for 2010.