Quintero looking forward to Astros return

Quintero enjoying time in Houston

HOUSTON -- Astros catcher Humberto Quintero had 525 career at-bats stretched across seven seasons in the Major Leagues prior to Thursday, but this year will mark the first season in which the 30-year-old has spent the entire season on a big league roster.

Quintero entered Thursday hitting .231 with career highs in homers (three) and RBIs (12) while playing in 49 games, including 41 starts. He has hits in eight of his 15 starts since Aug. 1, batting .256 during that span.

"I'm happy, and I hope I'm going to have more years here," Quintero said. "I would love to stay here and come here next year and be ready for spring. Hopefully I can do that and we make the playoffs next year."

Quintero spent his first two seasons in the Majors with San Diego. He bounced between Triple-A Round Rock and the Astros from 2005-08, backing up Brad Ausmus. This season, he backed up Ivan Rodriguez for most of the year before the Astros traded Pudge to Texas.

"Brad taught me a lot of things, and I learned a lot from him," Quintero said. "I appreciated that. I'm seeing what other catchers and our catchers are doing, and I'm going from there and learning. These last two years, I've had two of the best catchers in the big leagues, and I think I've learned something from those guys."

The Astros are likely to keep Quintero in the catching mix in 2010 as they wait for No. 1-ranked prospect Jason Castro to reach the Majors, likely sometime next season.

Unlike he did last year, Quintero said he doesn't plan to play winter ball in his native Venezuela over the offseason and will stay in Houston to work out. He skipped winter ball following the 2007 season and reported to Spring Training in great shape, hitting .341 that spring. He played winter ball following last year and hit .116 in Spring Training.

"I'm going to stay here and work hard like I did in 2007 and get ready for Spring Training," Quintero said. "I want to come in good shape and come ready for Spring Training."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Bud Norris (4-3, 6.05 ERA)
Norris, who was coming off three poor starts, showed the kind of poise and fastball command that made him one of the organization's top-rated prospects by holding the Phillies to six hits and two runs in six innings on Sunday. He was the first Astros rookie to win his first three starts before falling on hard times: Norris had gone 0-3 with a 13.11 ERA in three starts prior to Sunday. This will be his eighth Major League start and first appearance against Pittsburgh.

PIT: RHP Charlie Morton (3-7, 5.43 ERA)
Morton was pushed back three days in order to give his tender groin a little more time to heal. It also gave the right-hander a chance to have an extra side session with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. Morton's season could be defined simply by the word inconsistency. He has shown flashes of being able to command the exceptional movement he has on his pitches, but there have been only flashes of that. Morton is 0-1 with a 9.90 ERA in two previous starts against Houston.

Tidbits
Closer Jose Valverde entered Thursday with the longest active scoreless-innings streak in the National League at 16 innings in 14 appearances. ... Right fielder Hunter Pence is tied for the National League league with 13 outfield assists. ... With his homer in the third inning on Thursday, first baseman Lance Berkman avoided matching his career high for consecutive games without a homer. Before Thursday's three-run shot, Berkman had gone 32 games without a homer.

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Up next
• Saturday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 8-10, 5.10) vs. Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf, 11-9, 3.97), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Astros (Felipe Paulino, 2-8, 6.34) vs. Pirates (Paul Maholm, 7-8, 4.72), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 13-9, 2.76) at Reds (TBD), 6:10 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.