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Notes: Pence partakes in his T-shirt day

Notes: Pence partakes in T-shirt day

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HOUSTON -- Hunter Pence has been on the disabled list for more than two weeks, and to curb the boredom, the center fielder is finding new and innovative ways to pass the time.

Take Wednesday for example. It was Hunter Pence T-shirt night at Minute Maid Park, and for those fans who entered the ballpark at the right-field entrance, they were in for a treat. They received the Pence T-shirt from Pence himself, after the center fielder stopped by the entrance for about 20 minutes to hand out the promotional giveaway in person.

Dozens of surprised fans happily took the T-shirts and offered well-wishes to the injured rookie.

"We had no idea," said fan Jeff Margolis, who was accompanied by his two young sons, Colin and Aaron. "We were shocked. I was talking to my son when we were walking up, and I said, 'He's hitting the ball off the tee again,' and he said, 'Dad, he's going all the way back to tee ball?'"

Pence mingled with the fans, asking kids if they were going to wear their new T-shirts on the first day of school. He also encouraged fans to cheer extra loudly that night and bring the team a win against the Cubs.

"I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did," Pence said. "You never in a million years imagine yourself handing out your own jersey at a big-league stadium. It was quite the experience.

"They were very genuine. Some of them thanked me and said, 'We like watching you play, get well soon.' They were just very kind. I'm from Texas, I know how the people are here. They're great people, and we have great fans."

Free Luke? Luke Scott hasn't revisited the issue of his lack of playing time with manager Phil Garner since the two spoke in Atlanta last week, but the right fielder was pleased to see his name in the lineup on Wednesday against the Cubs.

Entering this game, left-handers were hitting .275 against Carlos Zambrano this year, as opposed to .159 for righties, so it was hardly surprising that Garner went with his left-handed lineup for the finale with the Cubs. But Scott hasn't been cracking the lineup much lately when the Astros face right-handers, so playing on Wednesday wasn't a sure thing, until the lineup was posted.

"I've got everything I need to know," he said. "I kind of know where they stand. I'm ready to do my job the best I can and whatever they ask me to do, I'll do the best I can."

Scott rewarded his manager's confidence with a two-run triple in the third inning, off Zambrano.

Rehabbing: Brandon Backe still has four more Minor League rehab starts to make before he can think about returning to a Major League mound, and the excitable right-hander is determined not to get ahead of himself as he enters the final stages of his nearly yearlong rehab process from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Backe threw 74 pitches in his second rehab outing on Tuesday in Round Rock, allowing two runs over 3 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs over five frames in his first start for Double-A Corpus Christi last week.

"I'm happy with the way I feel after the last two," Backe said. "I'm trying to not get caught up in it. I'm a long ways away. I'm happy to be competing again, that's the main thing. Being out on the field and playing, it matters. That's really about it, to tell you the truth."

On Bonds: Much of the pregame talk on Wednesday surrounded Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run, which he hit late Tuesday night in San Francisco.

Astros players commended Bonds for setting the new career mark, including Craig Biggio, who marveled at the milestones that have been reached this year.

"Think about some of the things that have happened this year," Biggio said. "You have a 300-game winner [Tom Glavine], you had a 3,000th hit [Biggio], two 500-home run hitters [Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez] and now Barry breaking the all-time home run mark. It's been a great, great season for baseball."

Coming up: The Astros will enjoy a scheduled day off on Thursday before resuming the homestand Friday night, beginning at 7:05 p.m. CT. The Astros will host the Milwaukee Brewers, with the opener featuring two right-handers: Houston's Jason Jennings (2-7, 6.11) and Milwaukee's Dave Bush (9-8, 5.03).

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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