Notes: Ausmus weathers record slump

Notes: Ausmus weathers record slump

HOUSTON -- At least Brad Ausmus has a good sense of humor about all of this.

Informed after Monday's opener with the Cubs that his 0-for-36 hitless streak established a club record, Ausmus responded: "It would be nice if I can get that record and the National League double play record."

Ausmus, who grounded into 30 double plays in 2002 to tie the NL record, was up to 0-for-39 after going hitless in three at-bats on Tuesday. The previous club record for position players was 0-for-33, held by four. Pitcher Jose Lima has the all-time record, going hitless in 44 consecutive at-bats in 1999.

None of this appears to be getting into Ausmus' psyche.

"I've been 0-for-40 before, just not consecutively," he said.

"The only thing that bothers me is when you leave guys on base," he added. "I've made plenty of outs. Thousands of outs. I can deal with that. I don't enjoy leaving guys on base. You feel like you're letting your teammates down."

Although he has nothing to show for it, Ausmus said he still feels comfortable when he bats, as evidenced by several hard-hit balls that have come during the prolonged slump.

"I don't feel bad at the plate," he said. "I've certainly felt a lot worse and gotten hits. I'm not striking out a lot. I'm putting the ball in play. I just have to find the place where no one's standing or try to get it to the outfield grass or something like that."

New shoes: To restrict how much his sprained left foot bends, Chris Burke is wearing a special metal sole in the front end of his shoe. He expects to wear it for at least a few more games.

"It helps my entire foot," Burke said. "It's a series of adjustments to try to see how much help I can put in my shoe without being totally uncomfortable. We've been trying a couple different tape jobs, a couple different pads, and now we're going to a hard sole at the advice of [team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner."

Burke did not start Tuesday's game but was available to pinch-hit.

Nervous Nellie: Garner, somewhat high-strung as far as managers go, is able to channel most of his nervous energy while he manages games. Take that element out of the equation, however, and he's a mess.

Garner served his suspension during Monday's opener with the Cubs, and, unable to pull the strings during what at one point was a very tight game, he was ready to pull his hair out as he watched from the video room in the back of the clubhouse.

As the score remained tied at 2, Garner paced. And paced. And paced.

"Until [Lance] Berkman hit the home run, I was like a cat trying to find a place to poop," Garner said.

Ready to get started: Sergio Perez, the Astros' second pick in this year's draft, threw a bullpen session at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. The 21-year-old right-hander will head to Lexington later this week to join the Class A Legends for the start of his professional baseball career.

Perez said he threw mostly fastballs and did not feel nervous despite being watched by Astros pitching coach Jim Hickey.

"I've been [pitching] all my life, so it's just another bullpen," he said.

Perez, who recently won a Division II national championship with the University of Tampa, took several weeks off to rest his arm before resuming throwing last week. Tuesday marked the first time he had taken the mound in quite some time.

"It's been about a month," he said. "It felt good to throw."

Support the troops: Five members of the Houston Astros bullpen will collectively contribute to Strikeouts for Troops, a national project created by Oakland Athletics pitcher Barry Zito that benefits the men and women of the armed forces injured in battle and rehabilitating at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital and other military hospitals.

Brad Lidge, Trever Miller, Chad Qualls, Russ Springer and Dan Wheeler join the current efforts of 16 Major League pitchers and four Minor League pitchers, including Triple-A Round Rock pitcher Jason Hirsh, in providing monetary relief for injured U.S. troops and their families.

"We have so much respect for the men and women in our armed forces, and we want to do everything we can to support them," Springer said. "When we visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this year, it really hit home with us the sacrifice that is being made by these true heroes. It is an honor for us to support them and their families."

Lidge, Miller, Qualls, Springer and Wheeler will make a combined monetary donation to Strikeouts for Troops at the end of the season based on the final 2006 strikeout total from all Astros relievers. Through games of July 3, the club's relief pitchers had combined for 222 strikeouts this season.

Established in April 2005, Strikeouts For Troops has raised $190,836.50 to date through contributions based on various statistical categories from more than 30 professional baseball players on different Major League teams, special events and fan donations on, with the funds assisting America's war-wounded.

Funds raised by the Strikeouts for Troops project help in many ways to bring the "comforts of home" to hundreds of war-wounded soldiers during their rehabilitation process. In addition, the organization has funded holiday dinners at military hospitals, bought Christmas gifts for families of patients unable to afford them, and helped build a hospital children's center where kids can stay while their parents tend to their medical needs. The funds also help alleviate the cost of travel and housing expenses for those soldiers' families.

For more information on the program or how to donate, visit

Coming up: The Astros and Cubs wrap up their series on Wednesday with a 7:05 p.m. CT game at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Roy Oswalt (6-4, 3.27) will face Cubs lefty Sean Marshall (4-7, 5.19).

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