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Garner still eager to see Bagwell throw hard

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- 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 eager 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.

"It was the best I've felt as far as my stuff goes," said
Sabathia, unconcerned about an 8.76 ERA in four starts. "I got
some swings with my change and I got a strikeout or two with my
slider, so I'm happy."

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.

Game 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.