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Notes: Berkman returns to lineup

Notes: Berkman returns to lineup

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ARLINGTON -- Lance Berkman was back in the lineup Sunday, one day sitting out because of a bruised left hand.

The swelling had improved enough to where the first baseman felt comfortable hitting, but because the bruising is the result of repeatedly being jammed at the plate, he's prepared to have to tend to similar ailments in the future.

"It's definitely going to recur," he said. "But you just play with it."

Berkman entered Sunday's game with a 10-game hitting streak, during which he was batting .366 (15-for-41). He was 6-for-16 (.375) on the road trip.

Berkman hit a three-run homer his first time up Sunday against the host Rangers.

Scheduling: Craig Biggio was back in the lineup Sunday as the designated hitter. He plans to return to his position at second base for the first two games in Milwaukee before taking Wednesday's matinee off.

Biggio is on pace to log his 3,000th hit in Houston, during the Astros' extended 11-game homestand that begins Thursday with a night game against the Rockies. Biggio's immediate family was with him in Arlington, but the extended family, including members from his side as well as his wife's, will flock to Houston in anticipation of the big hit.

Biggio left it up to his wife to coordinate the Houston-based reunion.

"Some are able to do it; some can't because of work," he said. "Most of them are coming in, which is nice. It's hard to get together at all anymore. It gives us a good reason to get together."

Helping hand: Among the many people Hunter Pence visited with during the Astros' trip to his hometown of Arlington this weekend was his friend Chris Gay, a former pitching farmhand in the White Sox system, who now runs the batting facility where Pence works out during the offseason.

Gay helps Pence keep his swing sharp by throwing him batting practice at a speed just under what Pence would see on the Major League level.

"He throws 100 percent from 45 feet, and he can still throw 80 mph," Pence said. "It's like facing a really nasty lefty. He'll throw sliders, changeups, fastballs. We'll go to work. He's awesome. It keeps me sharp during the offseason. I owe him a lot."

Unusual circumstance: It's not every day that a club would sign a recent draftee and then send him off to play college football, but that's exactly what general manager Tim Purpura agreed to do after 16th-rounder Devon Torrence agreed to terms with the Astros.

Torrence, a center fielder from Canton South High School in Massillon, Ohio, will play football for Ohio State this fall. Realizing the risk of injury, Purpura insisted it was worth it.

"It's a situation where you've got to be a little flexible if you're going to get a good athlete," he said. "The risk is he's going to get hurt and something's going to happen. Hopefully that doesn't happen and he's able to play for us. It's something different for us. He's got a lot of the tools, he plays the game right and he plays the game hard. It's worth the risk."

Coming up: The Astros will have a chance to shave a few games off their deficit in the National League Central this week, when they play the first-place Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Monday's game, which begins at 7:05 p.m. CT, will feature right-hander Jason Jennings (1-1, 3.63 ERA) and Brewers righty Ben Sheets (8-3, 3.19). The game will be on FSN Houston, in high definition.

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

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{"content":["interleague_play" ] }
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