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Laird, Ankiel lead Astros over Yankees split squad

Thursday - 2/28/2013, 6:40pm  ET

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Rick Ankiel had Houston's first hit and added his first home run in the Astros' 7-6 victory over a New York Yankees split squad on Thursday.

The 33-year-old former pitcher, off to one of spring training's hottest starts with six hits in his first nine at-bats, is trying to make the Astros as an outfielder.

"I'm sure I'll have dips," Ankiel said. "I don't think I can keep at the pace I'm going, but it's really not about that. What I'm looking for is trying to see the ball and get good pitches to hit. The results you can't control, but I can control which pitches I swing at."

His home run off Mike O'Brien broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning after strong starts by Houston's Lucas Harrell and New York's Brett Marshall.

"It feels great," said Ankiel, who hit .228 in 68 games with Washington, his sixth after four big-league seasons as a pitcher. "I feel like I'm seeing it great right now, for where we're at, and I just hope to continue on the path we're on and get better each day."

Manager Bo Porter is not surprised at Ankiel's start, which includes a double and a triple.

"He's off to a tremendous start. He's a pro's pro," Porter said. "He's going to be a great teammate. He's going to add veteran leadership in the clubhouse, and he's an outfielder who can change the game with one swing, and he can pay all three outfield positions."

Ankiel would rather be on this kind of roll a month from now.

"It's early. (Pitchers) are working on their heaters, but later in camp I think you'll start seeing more cutters and breaking stuff," he said. "It might be just as important to get at bats later on as it is now. Really just being able to hit the heater right now is what I'm working on, and the adjusting will come later."

Brandon Laird followed Ankiel's home run an inning later with a grand slam off loser Shane Greene.

Melky Mesa's three-run run homer off Ross Seaton in the top of the sixth had given the Yankees a 5-1 lead after RBI singles by Zoilo Altmonte and Matt Diaz.

Harrell was efficient in his second spring start, giving up three singles and getting two double plays. The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off a season in which he went 11-11 in 32 starts, no small achievement on a team that lost 107 games.

"I look at it as I pitched in 30-something games last year and I think we won 18 of my starts," he said. "More important than getting the win is the team gets the win, and I give them a chance to win, keep the game close. If I get a win it's just the cherry-on-top type of thing."

Sam Demel got the win for the Astros.

The 22-year-old Marshall pitched to the minimum nine batters in his three innings, striking out three while Francisco Cervelli threw out two runners attempting to steal.

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