Notes: Tough decisions ahead

Notes: Tough decisions ahead

ST. LOUIS -- The upcoming week is going to be somewhat stressful for a handful of players who are wondering if they will be the odd man out when it's time to activate right-hander Rick White from the disabled list.

The candidates are probably safe for the remainder of the road trip. White is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday, but it's more likely the club won't make a decision right away.

"We may not make that decision Tuesday," general manager Tim Purpura said. "We may go a little longer. For roster management purposes, we don't have to activate him immediately. We discussed that with Rick already. It may take us a day or two to sort things through. It may not happen right away."

The Astros have to make two decisions. First, they must determine if they want to carry an 11-man pitching staff, as they are now, or increase to 12 and go with one less position player.

Then, they have to decide who comes off the 25-man roster to make room for White. If they decide to carry 12 pitchers, then the likeliest candidates for a demotion to the Minor Leagues would be Chris Burke, Luke Scott and Jason Lane, and perhaps on a less likely scale, starting center fielder Hunter Pence.

Lane would have to pass through option waivers before he could be sent to the Minor Leagues. Burke, Scott and Pence could be sent down without risking losing them.

If the Astros stick with 11 pitchers, then a reliever would have to go. Trever Miller, Chad Qualls, Brad Lidge and Dan Wheeler aren't going anywhere. That leaves Dave Borkowski and Brian Moehler, both of whom have shown value as long relievers.

The delay in the decision-making process is two-fold. First and foremost, Purpura and manager Phil Garner simply don't know what they want to do.

"There's the 11 [or] 12 [pitcher issue]," Purpura said. "And honestly, there's difficulty in making the decision. Who's the right guy -- pitcher or position player?"

The other "problem," although it's one every GM would love to have, is that the pitching staff, as it's configured, has been doing well lately.

"You look at our guys, they have been effective," Purpura said. "The starters have been effective; the relievers have been effective. Everybody's going to have a bad outing here and there but when you make a decision you try to make them with a long-term view, not just on one or two appearances."

Favorable report: Purpura glanced at his Treo and read the report from one of his scouts, who watched White's rehab outing Saturday night in Corpus Christi, Texas. White pitched one scoreless frame, striking out two. He faced three batters.

"Looked healthy, pitched effectively, able to throw all of his pitches for strikes, worked at a good pace, fastball had good late sink and stayed down in the zone," Purpura read. "Slider and [changeup] were also quality pitches last night -- only a one-inning look."

White is slated to pitch against the Double-A Hooks on Monday. He'll probably throw two innings.

Extra BP: Playing on a part-time basis can wreak havoc on a player's timing and overall effectiveness, but Burke and Lane have worked together to help one another stay sharp.

During games, usually around the fifth inning or so, the two will retreat to the cages, where they throw batting practice to each other. They try to make it as close to game-like as possible -- "We stand pretty close, throw hard, change speeds -- that type of deal," Burke said.

"You know pinch-hitting opportunities are going to come somewhere after the fifth," he added. "Sometime after that, we start hitting. That way, you get hot, you get loose. If your number gets called, you're as ready as you can be."

Burke probably has a slight advantage, because Lane was a pitcher in college at the University of Southern California.

"Jason's a great work partner, because he can pitch," Burke said. "He gets in the cage and basically pitches to me. I do my best to reciprocate."

Simulated game: Jason Jennings, recovering from a long bout of elbow tendinitis, will throw a simulated game, his first of two, on Monday at Great American Ball Park.

Jennings estimated he would throw two to three innings in this game. If all goes well, he'll likely throw three or four in his next simulated outing, slated for Saturday.

Coming up: The Astros travel to Cincinnati to begin a four-game set with the Reds. Monday's game, scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m. CT, will feature right-hander Roy Oswalt and Reds righty Kyle Lohse.

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