Notes: Weekend rotation settled

Notes: Weekend rotation settled

ST. LOUIS -- The Houston Astros on Tuesday announced their rotation for the final series of the regular season with the Chicago Cubs, which begins this Thursday. Wandy Rodriguez will open the series, followed by Andy Pettitte on Friday, Roger Clemens on Saturday and Roy Oswalt on Sunday.

Saturday's game has been changed from 6:05 p.m. to 3:10 p.m. CT to accomodate a regional FOX telecast.

Clemens could have pitched Friday, which would be six days after his missed start in Chicago last Saturday. But manager Phil Garner wanted to give Clemens one extra day to take care of any lingering issues from the strained left hamstring that prevented him from making his last start.

"This gives Clemens one more day," Garner said. "I hope it's good."

Should the Astros make the playoffs, Pettitte would be able to start Game 1 on regular rest. For the Wild Card team, the Division Series begins Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Garner, as superstitious as anyone in baseball, prefers not to speculate on the postseason. The skipper has adopted the habit of putting his hands over his ears and saying, "I can't hear you, I can't hear you" when someone brings up something that could possibly put a jinx on things.

The media, however, is paid to speculate, so here's how things will likely shake out for the postseason: Pettitte, Game 1; Clemens, Game 2; off-day on Friday, Oct. 7; Oswalt, Game 3; Brandon Backe, Game 4 (if necessary) and Pettitte, Game 5 (if necessary).

"Let's get through the weekend," was all Garner would say.

Ma Bidge comes through: Craig Biggio arrived to the visitors clubhouse at Busch Stadium on Tuesday around 4:20 p.m. CT and offered good news about his mother, Johnna, who underwent open heart surgery in Houston.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Joe Coselli, was a success.

"She had a lot of work done, but she's all well and good and strong," he said. "It's been an emotional day, but I'm very grateful for [Dr. Coselli] and his staff. It's unbelievable to watch these guys work."

The surgery was originally to take place Monday, but was moved to Tuesday when it looked like Hurricane Rita was going to have an impact on the weather in Houston. But when the hurricane veered on a different path, the surgery was moved back to Monday, assuming the Astros' game in Chicago Sunday wasn't rained out.

"The doctor said, 'If you get the game in, we'll do it Monday,'" Biggio said. "'If not, then we'll do it Tuesday.'"

Biggio's mother intentionally scheduled the surgery for Monday because it was an Astros off-day, and she didn't want Craig to miss any games. Before Biggio arrived in St. Louis, he was already penciled into Tuesday's lineup, playing second base and batting second.

"She did her part, [Dr. Coselli] did his, and now I'm going to try to do mine," Biggio said.

Ausmus OK: Brad Ausmus split open the middle finger on his right hand when he was hit with a Matt Morris pitch in the fifth inning Tuesday, but he remained in the game and shouldn't miss any playing time in the future.

Head trainer Dave Labossiere put a Band-Aid on the finger to stop any bleeding, and in the next half-inning, Ausmus made a couple of practice throws to Oswalt to make sure he could still throw properly.

His finger will have to remain bandaged, but Ausmus doubts he'll have stitches.

"If I put stitches in, I might not be able to play," he said. "So that's not an option."

The Cardinals tested Ausmus immediately after the incident. In the bottom of the fifth, David Eckstein attempted to steal, but Ausmus threw to Adam Everett for an inning-ending double play that started with a Jim Edmonds strikeout.

Vote for Pedro: Having managed several Brewers and Tigers teams that never contended for a division title, Garner, an old school baseball man, understands the importance of fielding your best possible team when facing teams vying for a playoff spot the last week of the season.

But Garner expressed no ill opinions of Mets manager Willie Randolph, who opted to start Victor Zambrano in place of Pedro Martinez on Tuesday against the Phillies. Randolph reportedly cited issues with Martinez's aching big toe on his right foot as the reason for the skipped start.

"I don't know the circumstances," Garner said. "If someone were to say, how come we're skipping Roger [Clemens, last weekend]? They can't question without knowing. I don't know what the circumstances are.

"If [Martinez] is injured, or if he's at risk, I understand that. I'm sure any foul play, the Commissioner would be involved. I don't know that there is. I have enough trouble wtih my own team. I can't figure out what everybody else is doing."

Nice finish: Most of the Astros' traveling party was asleep by the time the Phillies and Mets concluded their rain-delayed game on Monday, so many were surprised when they woke up Tuesday and found out the Mets won.

The Phillies had a chance to gain a half-game on the idle Astros, and when they had a 4-1 lead heading into the seventh inning, it looked like they were headed for a win. That was, until the Mets scored four in the eighth to win, 6-5.

"I saw it was 4-1, then 4-2, then 5-2," Garner said. Then he went to bed. When he woke up in the morning, he crept to the door to retreive the newspaper while trying not to wake his wife, Carol.

"I put the paper underneath the curtain so I could see," Garner said. "I saw the Phillies lost."

So much for sleep. He woke Carol up anyway, loudly stating, "Hey, they lost."

Coming up: The Astros will conclude the road portion of the 2005 regular season when they bid farewell to Busch Stadium on Wednesday. Backe (10-8, 4.59 ERA) will face Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter (21-5, 2.71 ERA).

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