Bourn off to strong start for Astros

Bourn off to strong start for Astros

ATLANTA -- Prior to Friday's game, television analyst Jim Deshaies asked manager Cecil Cooper who his pick would be for Astros' player of the month.

Deshaies and his broadcast partner, Bill Brown, were planning to arbitrarily pick one pitcher of the month and one player of the month, now that April has concluded. Wandy Rodriguez clearly is pitcher of the month. But who's the player?

Cooper unwaveringly selected center fielder Michael Bourn, who hit .261 (18-for-69) in the season's opening month. Those are hardly eye-popping numbers, but considering how much Bourn has progressed from last season, he's definitely deserving of early-season accolades.

"From where [he was] to here, with the exception of the last two games, he's been on base a lot," Cooper said on Friday. "He needed to get off to that kind of start."

Bourn, who went 3-for-5 and made several spectacular plays in center in the opener at Turner Field, will have a chance to show off his improving defensive skills before a large regional audience on Saturday. The Astros-Braves matchup will be televised on FOX, beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Kenny Albert will provide the play-by-play, with former Major League first baseman Mark Grace next to him as the color analyst.

The Astros will look to even the series with the Braves after dropping the opener. Bourn can expect to hit second again, as he has for six games this season.

Bourn was happy to hear his manager picked him as the unofficial player of the month, but he kept his comments guarded at best.

"It feels good," Bourn said. "But we still have five more [months] to go through. It was a good start, I set a foundation, and we'll try to build off that."

Bourn worked tirelessly with hitting coach Sean Berry through Spring Training and the start of the regular season, and while the returns have been favorable, Bourn realizes there is more work to be done.

"There's still stuff I have to figure out, and I know it," he said. "Sometimes, there are hanging offspeed pitches I take and shouldn't. Sometimes I swing at them and hit them good, and sometimes I take them.

"I just try to stay consistent, work on the opposite-field approach. When I set my sights on that, I think I have a better approach at using the whole field."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt (0-2, 3.94 ERA)
After a less-than-stellar start to the season, Oswalt has begun to settle down. On April 17, he pitched six shutout innings and had a no-decision against the Reds, and last Monday, facing Cincinnati again, he threw seven innings and allowed six hits and one run. It's unfortunate for him he can't face the Reds every game. Although he's 0-2 through his first five starts this year, one shouldn't forget that he began last season 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. He finished the year 17-10 with a 3.54 ERA. It looks like Oswalt is starting to get back into that groove.

ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 1.72 ERA)
Jurrjens has gone 0-2 while posting a 1.32 ERA in his past three starts. The Braves have scored a total of three runs during those starts and just one of those came while he was still the pitcher of record. The 23-year-old right-hander has been much more efficient than he was while winning his first two starts of the year with a 3:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The only two walks he issued during Monday night's loss to the Cardinals came during the second inning, setting the stage for him to allow a costly two-out single to Rick Ankiel. In his past 20 1/3 innings, Jurrjens has allowed three earned runs and issued six walks.

Tidbits
Humberto Quintero made 40 throws on Friday, up from 30 a few days ago. "I feel a lot better," he said. Quintero is recovering from a right shoulder strain and is eligible to come off the DL on May 10. ... Doug Brocail normally sports one of those mountain-man goatees, but on Friday, he was clean-shaven. Turns out, he's trying to change his luck. "I had too many walks in it," he said. ... Triple-A third baseman Chris Johnson, recovering from a microfracture on his finger, is scheduled to hit off a tee Saturday and is said to be progressing well.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 2-2, 1.69) at Braves (Jo-Jo Reyes, 0-1, 4.26), 12:30 p.m. CT
• Monday: Astros (Russ Ortiz, 2-0, 5.30) at Nationals (Scott Olsen, 1-3, 6.08), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 0-2, 27.00) at Nationals (TBD), 11:35 a.m. CT

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