ARLINGTON -- Astros outfielder Hunter Pence's homecoming really wasn't much of a feel-good story.
Pence, the Arlington native who gets a chance to play three games in his hometown each year, missed his fifth consecutive game on Wednesday because of a sprained left elbow. Pence lobbied manager Brad Mills and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero to get into the lineup, but with an off-day on Thursday, the Astros are playing it safe.
"I know they're looking out for my best interests and sometimes it's smart to be patient in these circumstances," said Pence, who leads the Astros in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
Pence injured his elbow sliding into first base on Friday in Los Angeles and hasn't played since. All signs point toward him returning to the lineup for Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park, especially after Pence took batting practice on the field Wednesday.
"He really lobbied hard, and to his credit, he ran himself through the rigors of swinging and he felt like he could go," Mills said. "Nate talked to the doctors about it, and they still felt that these three days would really help him an awful lot, and he said he felt the same way.
"You know what? I'd love to have Hunter in there. There's no doubt I'm trying to get him back in the lineup, but at the same time, putting him in there with an off-day tomorrow, really probably wouldn't make the most sense."