And on Saturday, Pence rests. Injuries mounting. And Boooooone eyes September comeback.

Manager Cecil Cooper decided to rest a “scuffling” Hunter Pence on Saturday, hoping the break would get the right fielder back on track. Pence was hitless in his last 11 at-bats and was 0-for-4 in the opener at Chase Field on Friday. Darin Erstad received the start in Pence’s place.

The remaining lineup changes on Saturday were made due to injury. Jeff Keppinger has a tight back and was deemed unavailable for at least one game, while Geoff Blum’s hamstring injury reappeared during Friday’s game, forcing an early exit which will likely lead to multiple games missed in the near future.

If the hamstring doesn’t feel better in the next couple of days, Blum said he’s not opposed to going on the disabled list. He’d rather spend two full weeks making sure the injury is gone for good rather than play a week, miss a week, play a week, etc. That determination will be made sooner than later, I suspect.

(Update: two more injury issues popped up during Saturday’s game — right shoulder fatigue for Chris Sampson and a left leg cramp for Carlos Lee. Lee is day to day, and Coop said Sampson’s isn’t an injury as much as his arm is simply tired. He has been somewhat overused and Coop compared it to Doug Brocail’s situation in the first half last year. Look for Sampson’s work load to ease up a bit).

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Jose Valverde forgot about the early start time on Saturday, so he arrived to the clubhouse a tad later than the other players. Cooper waited for him before making the roster move official, just to make sure Valverde was indeed ready to come off the disabled list.

Valverde walked into Coop’s office and said, “I’m fine.” Cooper said, “Jog in place.” Valverde ran around Cooper’s office (it took about two seconds, considering the office is small and it was filled at the time with several reporters and broadcasters). Upon completion of that drill, Cooper informed his closer he was officially back in the “GP.” GP stands for “general population.”

(Update, 10:55 p.m. CT: Valverde recorded one out in the eighth. Hawkins closed out game in the ninth).

Wesley Wright was sent back to Round Rock to make room for Valverde. That didn’t come as a huge surprise, considering the Astros are still committed to giving Wright a bigger workload that might eventually translate into him becoming a starter.

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When he first announced his pending open-heart surgery during Spring Training, Aaron Boooooooooone sounded doubtful that he would play baseball again this year. But a little over two months into the season, Boooooooone has increased his level of optimism. The 36-year-old infielder hasn’t ruled out a September comeback, assuming he stays on scheduled with his workouts and rehabs.

Boone envisions working out regularly with the Astros in July and possibly spending the month of August rehabbing in the Minor Leagues. That would leave open the possibility of playing in September, when rosters expand to 40 and adding him would not necessitate sending someone down.

If the Astros happen to be in a playoff race by then, the presence of an Aaron Boone would be huge. He’s a veteran, he’s had some huge moments in the postseason and he’s a good teammate. Sounds like a feel-good comeback story in the making…

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From the Ask Alyson files:

What should we, fans, make of Jiovanni Mier’s comment about Miguel Tejada? And, what does this first pick mean for Tommy Manzella? I know Mier won’t be ready for the Majors right away, but my understanding is that Manzella is (was?) supposed to be our future shorstop — Renauds

For those who missed it, Mier told reporters the night he was drafted that a scout told him the team was looking to “get rid of Tejada” and they were looking for shortstops.

Everyday beat reporters had little use for the comment, mainly because an 18-year-old kid who is three years from the big leagues, minimum, has nothing to do with Tejada, who is hardly likely to still be around in 2012 when this kid might be knocking on the door. Plus, we don’t know the context of the quote — which scout actually said it, and if that was what he actually said.

Mier never should have said what he said, but give me a break. I’m not counting on Tejada being here next year, let alone in three years. In the talk radio circuit, Mier’s comment was a good way to kill a couple of hours. There’s no doubt that Mier shouldn’t have said what he said, but let’s put it in perspective. The Astros drafted four shortstops in the early rounds and it had nothing to do with Tejada and everything to do with building depth at the up-the-middle positions in the organization.

As for Manzella, he’ll get his shot next Spring Training. I’d like to see him, or someone defensively sound like him, to get the every day job. But again, Manzella and Mier are not intertwined. Good, deep, well-run organizations have many good prospects at every level, not just one or two. Depth is the name of the game.

Photos from first two days in Phoenix:

Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Dave Raymond and Bill Brown pass the time in the dugout before batting practice.

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Bet you didn’t know Friday was national “Put your hands on your hips” day. Apparently, these three got the memo.

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Roy Oswalt tells local Fox affiliate that his wrist is fine.

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A familiar sight — Hunter Pence smiling and signing autographs.

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Hey, look who’s standing upright! Actually, this was Jose Valverde one day before being activated from the disabled list.

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Aaron Booooooone warming up with the team on Saturday. He says he’s put most of the weight back on that he lost after the heart surgery.

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Here’s a shot of batting practice, from my seat in the press box.

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Oswalt and Brian Moehler have a quiet conversation during BP.

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A shot from the clubhouse: Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger, playing chess. Everyone else watched the Mets-Yankees game.

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Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter.

2 Comments

It would definitely be nice to have Booooone around in September, that’s when the Astros like to make all their noise in the division anyway!

Thanks for answering my questions Ms Footer.
Is it just me or Boone looks very skinny on the picture? He needs to put a lil? more meat on them bones :)

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