Notes: Qualls will serve suspension

Notes: Qualls will serve suspension

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, nearly one month after he threw a ball into the stands during a loss in Anaheim, right-hander Chad Qualls was informed by the Commissioner's Office that his appeal of his three-game suspension and $3,000 fine was denied.

Qualls will begin serving the suspension on Tuesday, which means he'll miss the final two games in Washington, D.C., and the first game in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Qualls was hoping for a reduction of both the fine and the number of days, but he lost on both counts.

"I thought it was going to be reduced by one game or at least reduced a little bit," he said. "To not get it reduced at all is very disappointing.

"When I got the phone call today that they were going to keep it the same, I was upset, but I really can't do anything about it. All I'm going to do is serve my suspension and put everything in the past and go on playing baseball."

Qualls will not be allowed in any "team-related areas," during the games, which means he'll have to watch from the stands, or from the hotel.

The ruling created a small stir among Qualls' teammates. On Monday, an anonymous prankster placed a box on top of the TV in the clubhouse that said, "Qualls suspension box -- donations appreciated."

Team meeting: Manager Phil Garner conducted a 25-minute meeting with his team prior to batting practice on Monday and later described the session as simple "housecleaning."

No, that doesn't mean anyone was fired or released. No major announcements were made, either.

"It was nothing major -- just ticky-tacky stuff," Lance Berkman said.

One more tuneup: Brad Lidge struck out two in the eighth inning on Monday and was deemed officially ready to move back to the closer's role, effective immediately.

Garner wanted to ease Lidge back into closing games rather than throw him into it right away after the right-hander was activated last Thursday. Lidge appeared in the seventh inning last Friday in Chicago, and following his appearance Monday, Garner said he was ready to insert Lidge into save situations.

"I feel real good right now, and I feel lucky that my mechanics are still in sync and everything feels good coming out of my hand," Lidge said. "I'm definitely ready to get back and close some games. We need to start winning games, and hopefully I can get a lot of opportunities to help us win games late in the ballgame."

Lidge emphasized to Garner that while he's looking forward to resuming his job as the closer, he has no issue with entering games in innings other than the ninth if the situation calls for it.

"I told him if we're losing by a run on the road and you want to throw me in the eighth, or whatever, that's fine," Lidge said. "I don't have a problem doing that. I'm not a closer who says, 'Save situations only.' Yeah, that's when you want to get in when you're closing. But I'll also throw at other times, because I'm a guy that not only enjoys throwing more, but sometimes I need to."

Air Force One: On Monday, a small contingent of the Astros' traveling party took a tour of Air Force One, the Boeing 747 used to transport the President of the United States.

The massive plane has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space, and the president has onboard living quarters, with his own bedroom, bathroom workout room and office space.

Senior staff members have their own office area, and the rest of the president's staff also has space to work and relax. There is a separate area for reporters traveling with the president, and there is plenty of room for the flight crew to do their work. All in all, Air Force One can comfortably carry 70 passengers and 26 crew members.

"It's spotless," Garner said. "Absolutely spotless. And there are a lot TVs, and a lot of phones -- 87 of them."

"How many chances do you have to tour Air Force One?" Dan Wheeler said. "It's humungous. All these different rooms and how secure it is and how well they can live up there."

Odds and ends: Brandon Backe will throw his simulated game on Tuesday, not Monday, as it was previously reported. ... The Astros will visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center, located in northern Washington, D.C. The club has visited the medical center each of the three years they've traveled to the nation's capital to play the Nationals. ... Orlando Palmeiro has 114 career pinch-hits, the 10th highest pinch-hit total in MLB history. Palmeiro is tied with Red Lucas, who played primarily for the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1920s and '30s. He was also the great-uncle of Jay Lucas, the Astros' senior vice president of communications.

Coming up: The Astros and Nationals will meet again on Tuesday at RFK Stadium, beginning at 6:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Chris Sampson (6-6., 4.25) will face former Astros right-hander Tim Redding (1-1, 4.09).

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