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Coste appreciated for work behind plate

Coste appreciated for defense

CHICAGO -- There are few things that make Astros catcher Chris Coste cringe more than when he hears someone heap praise on a catcher's defense based on having a strong arm, even though the catcher might not have very good hands and can't block balls.

Coste believes the first thing a catcher should do well is, of course, catch the ball, which is the definition of the position. And Coste has been getting plenty of more chances to catch in recent weeks since the Astros traded Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers.

"This is a much better opportunity than I could have ever foreseen, coming over here and getting to catch two out of three games and three out of five games," said Coste, who this weekend will face the Phillies, the team he helped win a World Series last year. "I get to catch Roy [Oswalt], [Brian] Moehler and Bud [Norris], a young prospect coming up. I just need to take better advantage of it."

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Coste was hitting .203 through 29 games with the Astros, which is well below his career average of .274. Despite having a reputation as an offensive player, Coste is happy his defense has started to get some recognition from the Astros.

Both Oswalt and Moehler praised Coste for being "quiet" behind the plate, something he took as a compliment.

"One of the most underrated things in catching is a guy having good hands," Coste said. "It's always been amazing to me that when they judge defensive catchers, they always talk about a guy's arm strength, which rarely ever comes into play in the game. When you catch a ball 100 times a game, the actual catching of the ball should be the most important thing, and no one ever says that."

Coste credits Indians manager Eric Wedge with helping him understand how important catching the ball is. Wedge stressed that being smooth behind the plate will help the pitcher look like he's more in control of his pitches. Wedge managed Coste with the Double-A Akron Aeros in 2003.

"If a pitch is outside and the catcher is stabbing at the ball, it makes the pitcher look like he's wild and the umpire is less likely to give him future pitches," Coste said.

And when Coste hears veterans like Oswalt and Moehler praise his ability to receive the ball, he feels gratified.

"For my whole career, it's for the most part gone unnoticed," he said. "I've always had decent hands. The pitchers in Philly noticed, but it never got brought up to the media and the coaching staff. As many times as I've had pitchers talk to me about it the last 10 years, since I've come here it's the first organization they've talked about it. Hopefully that means something."

Pitching matchup
HOU: LHP Wandy Rodriguez (12-9, 2.93 ERA)
After going 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA in July and being named the Pitcher of the Month for the National League, the left-hander went 2-3 with a 4.00 ERA in August. Those numbers were skewed by his Aug. 14 start against the Brewers in which he gave up 10 hits and 10 runs in four innings. In his previous start on Sunday in Arizona, he allowed seven hits and four runs in six innings. Rodriguez has appeared in three games against the Phillies (one start) in his career and is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA.

PHI: LHP Cliff Lee (12-10, 2.83 ERA)
Lee suffered his worst start with the Phillies on Saturday against the Braves when he allowed 10 hits and six runs in just five innings. It was Lee's shortest start and most runs allowed since June 30, when he lasted just three innings and allowed seven runs against the White Sox. It was the first time he had allowed three home runs since June 8, 2007, against Cincinnati, and just the seventh time in his career it happened. That said, he is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA.

Tidbits
Center fielder Michael Bourn and first baseman Lance Berkman will return to the starting lineuip Friday against the Phillies after sitting out Wednesday's series finale in Chicago. ... Jason Michaels is 4-for-6 with a walk in his last seven pinch-hit at-bats. ... Left fielder Carlos Lee hit .309 in August with five homers and 22 RBIs.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• FS-H HD

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 8-5, 3.80) vs. Phillies (Joe Blanton, 9-6, 3.77), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Astros (Bud Norris, 3-3, 6.61) vs. Phillies (TBD), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Astros (TBD) vs. Phillies (TBD), 1:05 p.m. CT

Brian McTaggart 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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