Clark settling into role after whirlwind

Clark settling into role after whirlwind

HOUSTON -- Calling it the craziest 24 hours he's experienced in all his years in baseball, Dave Clark admitted he still had puffy eyes from spending much of Monday night returning calls and texts messages from well-wishers.

Clark said he heard from dozens of friends, former players and family members after he was named interim manager of the Astros on Monday, when Cecil Cooper was dismissed. Among those Clark heard from were Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, a friend of Clark.

"I had a tough time sleeping last night with all the text messages and messages that were coming through," Clark said. "They were all good messages. It was a long night and a long day, but I'm enjoying it, though."

Clark talked to a handful of players on Monday, but Tuesday he held his first team meeting prior to batting practice.

"My message was that we're going to continue to play hard and play the game the right way," he said. "You're dealing with a veteran ballclub, so you have guys that do that. You want a different type of attitude to be established around here, and that's what happens when you know there's someone new at the helm. I think I bring more of an unbeat, aggressive-type attitude. The players know that and expect that."

When it comes to handling his pitching staff, Clark wants to give the starting pitcher a chance to pitch deep into games.

"I'm sure most managers would like their pitchers to give them seven, eight innings," he said. "That would be great. That way you're not putting a whole lot of work on the bullpen. I'm going to give these guys a chance to win ballgames and stay in games as long as possible. That's when you find out what they're really made of."

Clark didn't start prospects Chris Johnson, a third baseman, and Tommy Manzella, a shortstop, in either of the first two games against the Cardinals, saying he wanted to put his best team on the field while playing St. Louis, which has yet to clinch a playoff spot.

"Not to say these kids aren't going to be good players, because I really and truly believe they are, but it's going to take some time and maturity and take running them out there to see what they're capable of doing," Clark said. "I'm not going to do that against a team like the Cardinals."

Clark managed Johnson for half a season in Triple-A Round Rock last year and Manzella for 2 1/2 years at Round Rock and Double-A Corpus Christi and is sold on the youngsters.

"They will be given that opportunity [to prove they can play]," he said. "Do they have the ability? Yes they do."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Bud Norris (5-3, 5.07 ERA)
Norris gets a chance to face the Cardinals for the second time in his career. He made his first Major League start against St. Louis in Aug. 2 at Busch Stadium, and threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, four walks while striking out five batters. He had decisions in his first eight Major League starts before throwing five innings in a no-decision Friday in Milwaukee.

STL: RHP John Smoltz (3-6, 6.22 ERA)
Smoltz returned on Sept. 18 after having mild shoulder tendinitis and gave up two runs on three straight doubles in the first inning against the Cubs. But he shut out Chicago for the next five innings -- moving away from using his fastball, which he wasn't especially pleased with -- and the Cardinals came back to win, 3-2.

Tidbits
The Astros had stolen 109 bases entering Tuesday, the second-most in the National League behind the Mets' 115. ... Norris ranks second among NL rookie starters with a 9.24 strikeouts-per-nine-inning ratio. ... Center fielder Michael Bourn has reached base safely in 39 of his past 44 games.

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Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 8-10, 4.86) vs. Reds (Justin Lehr, 4-2, 5.30), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Astros (Felipe Paulino, 2-10, 6.06) vs. Reds (TBD), 6:05 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.