Notes: Burke to see role increase

Notes: Burke to see role increase

CHICAGO -- Chris Burke hasn't been officially informed of what his role will be in the second half of the season, but after hearing about media reports detailing Craig Biggio's reduced playing time, Burke doesn't need an interpreter to figure out what's going on.

Burke started at second base for the second day in a row on Sunday, and it's likely he'll receive the bulk of the playing time for the remainder of this road trip and for most of the road games this year. Mark Loretta could also factor in at second base.

Biggio, who will continue to start regularly when the team is at home, will likely play one game in each of the two remaining cities in the upcoming week -- Washington and Pittsburgh.

"I haven't really talked to anybody about it, so I'm not sure how to comment," Burke said. "But if I do play more, I'm obviously excited about it."

Burke was the Astros' No. 1 pick in 2001 and was projected to play second base and hit leadoff -- two roles that were occupied by Biggio for the better part of two decades. The Astros envision Burke playing second base full-time beginning in 2008, but considering the 27-year-old has yet to play there regularly, it's probably time to find out if Burke can handle the everyday job.

"I haven't had any consistent playing time at second base in the Major Leagues, so that's exciting for me, because that's obviously the position that I spent most of my Minor League career playing," Burke said. "If I do happen to get a lot of starts there, it'll be fun for me. I haven't played much there recently, so it will be nice to get back to that position."

Staying the course: A couple of years ago, manager Phil Garner approached Lance Berkman about considering the idea of scrapping switch-hitting and batting exclusively left-handed. Berkman responded with an emphatic "no" and explained that he's not comfortable hitting left-handed against a lefty pitcher. That was the last time the subject was broached.

Berkman has struggled hitting right-handed this year, but Garner doesn't plan to ask Berkman to reconsider abandoning that part of his game.

"There's no sense in revisiting it," Garner said. "He's not of the mind-set to do it. It really won't work if you try to make a guy do something like that."

Garner dropped Berkman to fifth in the order on Saturday against Cubs lefty Ted Lilly. Berkman struck out three times, and Garner was further bothered by the fact that moving him out of the three hole affected Carlos Lee's performance as well.

"They didn't pitch to Carlos very well," Garner said. "They pitched around Carlos all day."

Lee was 0-for-3 with a walk in the Astros' loss.

Voodoo: Garner isn't an overly spiritual man, and most who know him would say he's logical and thoughtful and has a firm grasp on reality.

But get him talking about Carlos Zambrano, and, well, Garner goes off the deep end just a bit.

Garner is determined to put a hex on the Cubs ace before the Astros have to face him again. How is he going to do this? Voodoo, of course.

"I am not embarrassed at all to elicit the help of a voodoo lady," Garner said.

Garner made it clear his intent is not to injure Zambrano. He just wants to get in his head a little, with hopes of rattling the right-hander so that he can't hurt the Astros as much as he has in his previous outings.

Zambrano has owned the Astros in his two starts against them this year. He has allowed one unearned run over 14 2/3 innings and struck out 15.

Is it time to round up a Zambrano bobblehead and some needles?

"The objective is to so psych him out that he can't pitch good against us," Garner said. "I don't want him to be injured. I want him to be psyched out so he can't throw the ball over the plate and he can't get base hits off of us."

Coming up: The Astros' road trip continues Monday with the first of three games with the Nationals at RFK Stadium. Monday's game will begin at 6:05 p.m. CT and will feature right-hander Woody Williams (4-10, 5.34) and Nationals lefty Mike Bascik (2-6, 5.20).

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