HOUSTON -- It was only fitting that Tammy Roberts and Jerome Williams crossed paths. Roberts, who has twice survived cancer, credits baseball for helping her beat the disease, while the veteran Astros pitcher knows all too well how difficult battling cancer can be.
Roberts, the Astros' recipient of the 2014 Honorary Bat Girl contest, received a pink bat autographed by the team and the pink glove Williams wore when he won his first game of the season earlier this year. That was before Roberts threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday night's game against the White Sox.
"It's very difficult, but when they told me I was going to be OK, the only thing I could do was give it to God and hold on tight and don't lose my faith," said Roberts, who is from Oswasso, Okla.
Williams lost his mother, Deborah, to breast cancer in 2001 and pitches with a pink glove every game in her honor.
"Every year since I was in Taiwan [in 2010], after I get my first win I give my glove away," he said. "I thought it was a good gesture for her to have the glove of my first win with the Astros, and that's what I did. I gave her my game-used glove and signed it."
During summer 2012, Roberts learned she had stage four breast and lymph node cancer. The original prognosis from her doctors was not encouraging, and Roberts took on her treatments with great strength and courage.
The cancer spread to her neck last spring, and she underwent painful radiation treatments without the use of pain medication because of an allergy. The radiation treatments continued throughout 2013.
"I'm in complete remission now," said Roberts, who received a clean bill of health Feb. 1.
While she was recovering, Roberts stayed busy by traveling to watch the baseball games of her teenage son, Colton, who plays on a competitive team.
"Baseball's a big part of our life and getting through this," she said. "My son played games, and that got me through the treatments, along with my brother and family. It does mean a lot to be able to be here and know that I defeated cancer."
Cosart to add one-seamer to repertoire
HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart plans to unveil a one-seam fastball Saturday, giving him a pitch designed to sink dramatically in the zone and that goes away to left-handers and in to right-handers. The pitch comes at the advice of pitching coach Brent Strom.
"The two-seam [fastball] is just going to have more horizontal movement, but the one-seam I'm getting more downward action, almost like my changeup but harder," Cosart said. "Probably like 90, 91, 89 [mph], somewhere in that range."
Cosart had mostly turned to two pitches, relying on his fastball and curveball while throwing an occasional changeup. The one-seam is gripped one finger on a seam and two on the leather, and Cosart said he planned to squeeze it hard like a slider.
"I think Strom wanted me to break it out sooner, but I don't want to risk my performance out there by hitting somebody or whatnot," he said. "I have a pretty good feel for it, and I'll break it out tomorrow and hopefully get some quick outs or maybe some strikeouts."
Cosart has also been working on a new grip on his changeup with Strom, and he threw a couple of changeups in his latest start.
"I've been doing a lot of different changeup grips trying to find the right one," Cosart said. "I think we did find one, but it's going to take me throwing it [more] to get feedback."
After pursuit, Astros get first look at Abreu
HOUSTON -- The Astros made a hard push to sign White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, who entered Friday night's game leading the Major Leagues with 15 home runs, 27 extra-base hits and 103 total bases while ranking second with 41 RBIs.
It is widely believed the Astros finished second to the White Sox in the bidding, offering the Cuban a reported $50 million to $60 million. He wound up signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox, who appear to have struck gold.
Abreu was asked Friday through interpreter Lino Diaz about his interest in Houston.
"You know what, there was a lot of teams that were interested," he said. "To be honest with you, a lot of those teams, I'm not aware of who they were, but I understand Houston was one of them that was interested in signing me. My agent [Barry Praver] was taking care of all that."
Astros manager Bo Porter jokingly sighed when he heard Friday that Abreu was in the lineup despite battling a left ankle injury.
"He could have took three days off," Porter said, joking. "No, it's real power, it's special power and we'll do everything we can to try to keep him at bay."
The Astros' lineup -- and probably their win-loss record -- would look much different had they been able to close the deal with Abreu.
"We made a run at him, and the White Sox ended up getting him," Porter said. "Bats like that don't come along every day."