Notes: Pence moved up in lineup

Notes: Pence moved up in lineup

HOUSTON -- Saturday's lineup featured a myriad of right-handed hitters, which was no surprise, considering the Astros were facing lefty John Koronka.

But manager Phil Garner also made some other small tweaks, inserting Mark Loretta in the two-hole as the starting shortstop, while Morgan Ensberg received the start at third and Jason Lane in right field.

Hunter Pence was moved up one spot into the five-hole, while Ensberg hit sixth. Lane hit seventh, in front of catcher Brad Ausmus.

Clearly, Pence will receive more RBI opportunities by hitting fifth, and considering how he's performed in less than one month in the big leagues -- .348 average over 18 games -- it's not surprising that Garner wants the rookie center fielder hitting in the middle of the lineup.

Garner didn't reveal what his long-term plans are for Adam Everett, but clearly, his .191 average is cause for some concern. Everett is hitting just .131 (8-for-61) this month, and his on-base and slugging percentages are at all-time lows -- .145 and .148, respectively.

"I guess more than anything, what bothers me is I'm letting the team down," Everett said. "I just feel like I am. That's the bottom line."

Everett said his health is not an issue, and that his past lower back problems have not been the cause for his offensive troubles. During the offseason and Spring Training, he felt that he made strides in his approach at the plate, and he's "extremely frustrated" that nothing is working for him right now.

"I felt good and all of a sudden, it's just gone," he said. "It feels like I've never played baseball before.

"I'm just frustrated. And maybe today can be a good mental day and just watch. Maybe that's what [Garner] wants to do. Maybe he needs someone in there that can hit."

His frustrations began in earnest on May 1, when he popped out three times to the catcher in foul territory during a game with the Reds in Cincinnati. Since then, Everett is wondering if he's simply thinking too much while he's at the plate.

"I started over analyzing it," Everett said. "Instead of saying, 'You know what? I swung at bad pitches.' If I just would have gone back and looked at the tape and said, 'This was just a bad pitch,' instead of 'maybe it's this, maybe it's that.'"

No worries: Brandon Backe's recent setback doesn't worry Garner, who said the elbow soreness the right-hander is experiencing usually hits Tommy John patients at some point during their recovery.

"I do not think it's a bad thing," Garner said. "I'm surprised he's gone this long without having something like that. I don't view it as a setback. I view it as part of the normal process. I don't think it's something that's going to be an issue."

Backe said he felt better on Saturday, one day after canceling his simulated game. Backe hopes that a few days of rest will take care of the problem, and Garner sounded confident Backe would be back on the mound to resume his rehab regimen soon.

"Brandon's been great at following the protocol and I think as we continue to ramp things up, he's really done very, very well," Garner said. "This is really part of the process. The important thing now is to back off a little bit and hope he'll respond from that. It's normal soreness. It's nothing we're overly concerned about. We have to slow down just a little bit."

Gift call: Replays on Michael Young's flip to third in the sixth inning Saturday showed that he beat Mike Lamb by several steps, but Lamb was called safe by third-base umpire Tim Timmons. That kept the inning alive and allowed the Astros to pile on three more runs as part of a five-run inning.

"It was blatantly obvious that I was safe," Lamb deadpanned. "The umpire called me safe, so I couldn't have been out. My opinion on the play doesn't matter. It's only the guy that makes the call that matters, right?

"You guys saw the replays. I mean, good grief. I don't need to see the replay. It turned out to be a pretty good call. We ended up scoring [three] more runs."

Biggio hits two: Craig Biggio reached the 2,970 hit mark with two more base hits Saturday. His first was a bunt single in the third frame that eventually led to the Astros' first run of the game.

"We've got to break out [the whole] bag of tricks now," Biggio said. "I used to bunt a lot. I don't practice as much as I used to. Maybe I should."

Coming up: The Astros and Rangers will wrap up Round 1 of the Lone Star Series on Sunday at Minute Maid Park, beginning at 1:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Woody Williams (1-5, 5.10) will face Rangers right-hander Brandon McCarthy (3-4, 6.51).

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