Astros' Velasquez Finally Healthy, Effective

HOUSTON—There are still days when Vincent Velasquez feels some tightness in his arm. But for the most part, going on two years clear of Tommy John surgery, life is good.

Velasquez is back on the field—one where games count—after being held in extended spring training for two months to monitor his innings.

A second-round pick out of Grey (Calif.) High in 2010, Velasquez had the surgery after the 2010 season and missed all of 2011. But he's begun the 2012 campaign strong for one of the New York-Penn League's best teams. Through seven starts for short-season Tri-City, he was 4-1, 2.72 with 12 walks and 36 strikeouts in 36 innings.

The road back from surgery was a long one, and the 20-year-old Velasquez was meticulous in describing each step of a process that had to be taken very carefully. He was participating in a light throwing program by January 2011, which was three-to-four months post-op. After a little bit of inflammation in his arm, he was ready to throw off a mound before the Astros' fall instructional league, which had been the target all along.

"I had a little bit of arm issues as far as tendinitis goes, but it's pretty much something to overcome," Velasquez said. "It was all in the process of taking it easy and gradually going through it."

The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder threw more than 10 bullpen sessions before going out for a few instructional league outings, making it back to a mound at game speed by a year out.

Then it was just playing catch this past offseason to get ready for spring training, when the arm action came a little more naturally.

Velasquez said he has come back throwing harder. Sitting 88-90 mph in his professional debut for Rookie-level Greeneville, he is now 90-93 for Tri-City.

Space Shots

• The Astros acquired 15 prospects in addition to two big leaguers in their trades of Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon, Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Johnson. Of the 13 named at the time of the deal, eight were pitchers, including five lefthanders.

• General manager Jeff Luhnow and the minor league staff have discussed moving Triple-A second baseman Jimmy Paredes to the outfield before the season is over to try to clear his path to the majors, which is currently blocked by all-star Jose Altuve.