OAK@HOU: Castro crushes three-run shot for the lead

OAKLAND -- Astros catcher Jason Castro is in his third full season with the parent club. He's not yet arbitration-eligible. And he's one of the veterans of the team.

"It's a crazy thing," Castro said. "Overall I don't have that much experience, but here, I'm one of the older guys."

Carlos Pena is the oldest, at 35, and just one of six players 30 or older.

The team is growing up together, though, and Castro, who bats in the No. 3 hole, has been valuable in his ability to handle a young pitching staff.

Keuchel, Clemens show Astros are on right track

Must C Clips: Clemens injures finger, gets next out

OAKLAND -- The Astros have a plan in place as they seek to grow into a contender for the American League West title. It just may seem too far away for many fans.

"We're tired of losing and the kids are tired of losing," pitching coach Doug Brocail said before the Astros took on the Athletics on Tuesday night. "Sure, we could go for the quick fix, but that's not part of the plan."

What is part of the plan is developing starting pitchers -- a lot of starting pitchers. If Dallas Keuchel and Paul Clemens are any indication, Houston is on the right track.

"We have some good young guys up here already in a good learning environment," Brocail said. "We encourage them all to speak up if they see something. That's why I like them to play catch with different players every day."

Clemens has made two appearances this season, essentially repeating what he has done in the Minors, where a piggyback system is in effect. Clemens took over for Erik Bedard in both of his starts, pitching a combined 9 1/3 innings.

"We really don't know who will start and who will pitch long relief in the long run," Brocail said. "We made the decision to build starting pitching at Triple-A by the piggyback system, where one guy goes five innings and the other tries to close out the game."

Keuchel has shown it works. When he was with the Astros last year, he started 12 games. In eight innings in relief this season, he's allowed just one run. He tossed three scoreless innings in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the A's, giving up three hits.

"From the beginning of Spring Training, I would start one game and come in relief the next time," Keuchel said. "If I needed to start, I would be able to build up endurance easier. I'm pretty much in shape where I could go 85 pitches."

While the Astros' diehard fans understand it's a process, the casual fan may not understand how it works.

"We have some good arms coming up, they are just not ready yet," Brocail said. "This doesn't happen overnight, as much as the coaches and front office would like it to."

The current season-ticket holders will be rewarded for their patience. The Astros are building to win.

Porter recalls first career homer with A's

HOU@OAK: A's broadcast on Porter's first career homer

OAKLAND -- Astros manager Bo Porter, who played with the A's in 2000, hit his first career home run wearing an Oakland uniform.

"I only remember it was in Tampa Bay and went over the left-center-field fence," he said. "That was a great team, with Jason Giambi the emotional leader in the locker room."

Porter even got the home-run ball, one of two he hit in his career.

Although he has a strong Oakland connection, trading Jed Lowrie to the A's had nothing to do with familiarity.

"The A's were not the only team interested in Jed Lowrie," Porter said. "When you look to see what we got in return, you know how much we thought of him. The A's offered us the best situation for us today and with a watchful eye on tomorrow. We got two guys who could impact the team."

All three players involved the trade were in the lineup Tuesday night: Lowrie at shortstop for the A's, Chris Carter as Houston's designated hitter and Brad Peacock as the Astros' starting pitcher.