Notes: Garner looking for what works

Notes: Garner looking for what works

ARLINGTON -- The search for a road win continued on Sunday, when Houston Astros manager Phil Garner shuffled his starting lineup once again, inserting Orlando Palmeiro in the leadoff spot as the starting center fielder. Todd Self, who was 2-for-5 in his first big-league start on Saturday, was back in the lineup, playing right field and batting second.

Jason Lane and Willy Taveras did not start.

The Astros have not fielded the same lineup in consecutive games for quite some time, and until the Astros show some signs of improvement, Garner likely will continue to mix and match. The Astros entered Sunday's game on pace to win one road game per month. They won one on April 15 in Cincinnati and another on May 9 in Florida. Including Sunday, the Astros had seven more chances to log one more road win before the calendar flips to June.

So you can't really blame Garner for moving things around a bit.

"What I would normally do is pretty much have a set lineup, and then you'd go most of the time with that set lineup and you'd add a player here and there. And when guys are struggling, you might give them a day off," he said. "Or just pick a day with [Craig] Biggio, and give him his day off. You'd have, pretty much, a consistent lineup.

"But particularly on the road, we're not winning, we're not playing inspiring ball by any stretch of the imagination. You try to find something that works today, and give everybody as much of a chance as you can to pitch in and do something."

Palmeiro singled in his first two at-bats on Sunday.

Rodriguez recalled: Following Sunday's game, the Astros announced left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will start on Monday in Chicago against the Cubs, in place of Andy Pettitte.

Rodriguez, 26, was 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA over eight starts for the Round Rock Express at the time of his recall. He walked 16 and struck out 48 over 46 1/3 innings.

Rodriguez, who recovered from the chicken pox about three weeks ago, will be pitching on short rest. His last outing was May 19, during which he allowed two runs on five hits with one walk and nine strikeouts over six innings in a 4-2 loss to Tucson.

"We liked what we saw in Spring Training, we liked what we saw when he faced us [in an exhibition game] in Round Rock [during Spring Training]," said Garner. "He's throwing the ball well. Our plan is to just skip one start with Andy, so this may be just one shot at it, but still this is a chance to come up and have a start and see what he can do."

To make room for Rodriguez on the 25-man roster, the Astros sent right-hander Mike Burns to Round Rock.

Half-day off: Biggio was the Astros' designated hitter in Sunday's series finale in Arlington, and the second baseman said he likes the partial duty every once in a while.

"I like it," he said. "You can watch the game a little bit and still be involved in it. And, you're still hitting."

It was 93 degrees at game time Sunday, with a heat index of 98 degrees. If there was ever a good time to give a veteran a day off from the field, it was probably this day. And that was fine with Biggio, who has had a few bad reactions to extreme heat over the years.

"I don't mind it," Biggio said. "It's nice because you get a day off, yet you're still playing. A day off physically from the grind of the field. That's what beats you up."

Biggio entered Sunday's game with a .370 average as a designated hitter, logging 10 hits in 27 at-bats with one homer and five RBIs.

Location, location, location: The Ezequiel Astacio-Chris Young matchup on Saturday proved that perhaps velocity isn't the only thing that matters in the Major Leagues.

Astacio's fastball clocked in anywhere between 93 and 95 mph, whereas Young never exceeded 90 mph. Astacio was hit for nine runs over 1 2/3 innings. However, Young allowed two runs over five frames in the Rangers' 18-3 win.

Garner repeated what pitching coach Jim Hickey told Astacio during a conference on the mound when things were starting to get out of hand.

"Sometimes you don't want to power through the problem," Garner said. "Back off the problem. Throw your slider a little bit softer. You don't have to throw a 94 mile-per-hour fastball. Throw a 90 mile-per-hour fastball, but locate it."

Which was what Young was doing. Astacio's pitches were all up, and when they're up, it doesn't really matter how fast they're coming. Good hitters -- and the Rangers have a whole lineup of them -- are going to hit it.

"But it's part of learning up here [in the Majors]," Garner said. "That's what we were talking about with Kenny Rogers the other night. Kenny doesn't have to throw the ball hard. It's where you throw it. And you change speeds. Every pitcher that I've ever seen that, quote, 'learns how to pitch,' always loses something off his fastball."

Garner used Greg Maddux as a classic example.

"When I first faced Maddux, [his fastball] was 94 miles an hour, and he had pretty decent location," Garner said. "But by the fifth inning, you got to him. The third time you saw him, you started hitting him, and he'd give it up. He couldn't win.

"The day he learned to sink it a little bit and take a little off of it, he went from 94 [mph] to about 89 to 90 [mph] -- lights out. At that point, you coudn't beat him. He located."

Minor Leagues: Left-hander Carlos Hernandez gave up six runs on six hits over three innings in Triple-A Round Rock's 15-4 loss to Tucson on Saturday. Right-hander Jeremy Griffiths allowed eight runs, six walks and three hits in relief. The Express scored four runs on 10 hits, three of which came by shortstop Danny Klassen and two apiece by third baseman Mike Coolbaugh and catcher Humberto Quintero. Left fielder Luke Scott connected with his fourth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the fifth.

Double-A Corpus Christi lost to San Antonio, 9-3, extending its losing streak to six games. Trailing, 3-0, in the second, the Hooks were boosted by Dax Norris' two-run homer. But the Missions scored at least one run in three of the next four innings to secure the win. Left-hander Mark McLemore allowed four runs [two earned] on three hits over four frames in the loss.

Class A Salem and Potomac split a doubleheader. Potomac won the first game, 5-4, and Salem won the second, 3-2. In Game One, right fielder Josh Fagan was 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Right-hander Matt Albers allowed four runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. In Game Two, left-hander Josh Muecke pitched a complete game, which consisted of seven innings on this doubleheader day. Muecke walked none and struck out six.

Class A Lexington shut out Hagerstown, 9-0. Left-hander Troy Patton pitched a gem, holding Hagerstown to four hits over six shutout frames, walking one and striking out 12. Patton is 3-0 on the year. Hunter Pence blasted his league-leading 14th home run in the first frame, and every member of the Legends' starting lineup scored at least one run.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.