Notes: Backe still hopes to return

Notes: Backe still hopes to return

HOUSTON -- Brandon Backe hasn't given up hope that he'll return to the mound this season, but he's finding it challenging to keep a sunny outlook as he fights to rebound from last year's Tommy John surgery.

Backe was a bit glum after he threw 40 pitches off the mound prior to Thursday's matinee at Minute Maid Park. This was his second throwing session since he was shut down with soreness in his elbow nearly a month ago, but this time, he mixed in his breaking balls rather than throwing all fastballs.

Physically, he felt fine, but mentally, the rehab process is taking a toll on him.

"It's starting to wear on me, to be honest with you," he said. "Not being able to do what I want to do.

"It's not fun. This is keeping me away from doing what I want to do. It's keeping me away from trying to help our team be successful. Not that our pitchers are doing bad, it's just, I want to be out there. I'd rather be the reason we lose instead of not having any way to help win."

Backe, who had the ligament replacement surgery last September, was on the fast track to return to the team, possibly shortly after the All-Star break. But he suffered a setback after throwing a simulated game in mid-May, and he's just now being cleared to throw off the mound.

The lack of activity in the last month makes it highly unlikely he'd be able to pitch until September, at the earliest.

"I have a long time to go," Backe said. "I think I'm going to make it this year. It's just feeling good one day and then two days later, you don't feel good. It's not a continuation of building on feeling good. It's, how am I going to feel today?"

Water under the bridge: Manager Phil Garner was standing at the opposite end of the dugout from Dan Wheeler and Chris Sampson when they had their brief shoving encounter on Wednesday, and the skipper was not aware of the incident until reporters asked him about it after the game.

Garner looked at the tape of the incident and admitted, "it did look a little pushy."

Garner spoke with both players after the game to make sure there were no lingering issues. Wheeler, who shoved Sampson in a brief burst of frustration after giving up the lead in the eighth inning, apologized to Sampson, and both pitchers said the incident was a non-issue.

"Danny was upset with himself," Garner said. "We do, as a typical rule, when you know guys personalities, you just know who to stay away from. Sampson, quite innocently, was going up and offering a little pat on the butt. Danny didn't want to be a part of anything. I understand, because I'm the same way. Give him space until he's calmed down.

"I understand Danny's deal. Nothing personal, no issues there. Nothing that's a holdover from anything. Danny needed a little time. He felt bad about it. He and Sampson worked it out and that's fine."

White nearing return: Rick White will throw a simulated game on Friday and another one either Sunday or Monday, and if all goes well, he'll be ready to be activated off the disabled list by the middle of next week.

White has been in the DL since June 1 with a pinched nerve in his neck, which was causing a numbing sensation in his fingers. A herniated disc also contributed to the pain.

"The only setback I would get is if I would throw and my fingers got numb again," White said. "That's the only setback I could get. I'm not going to herniate the disc anymore."

White will not be required to go on a Minor League rehab assignment, much to his relief. He'd like to rejoin the Astros' bullpen as soon as possible.

"I'm tired of sitting around watching," he said.

Wives gala: The 18th annual "Black Ties and Baseball Caps" wives' gala will take place Aug. 9 at Minute Maid Park, with proceeds benefiting the Houston Area Women's Center.

This year's gala will be co-chaired by Jill Borkowski, wife of relief pitcher Dave Borkowski, and Sara Burke, wife of infielder/outfielder Chris Burke.

Radio announcer Milo Hamilton will emcee the event, which will include a cocktail reception, silent auction, live auction and dinner.

Individual tickets are $400 each. Table prices are: $4,000 for a "Home Run" table of 10, $5,000 for a "Silver Slugger" table of 10, $10,000 for a "Gold Glove" table of 10, $15,000 for a Diamond table of 10 and $25,000 for an "All-Star" table of 12.

TThe All-Star, Diamond, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger tables allow the opportunity to select a player and his wife/guest to be seated at that table. Player requests are granted first by level of sponsorship and second in order received.

For ticket information, call 713-781-0053.

The Houston Area Womens's Center's vision, leadership and actions empower women to advance their roles, rights and well being. HAWC provides shelter and support services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

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