09/09/2004 6:44 PM ET
Notes: Garner returns to Pittsburgh
Astros manager won World Series with Bucs in 1979
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Phil Garner, upbeat and witty by nature, had a little extra kick in his step when he entered the visitors' clubhouse at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Garner spent only five seasons with the Pirates in the middle of his 16-year career, but reached the ultimate thrill while wearing a Pittsburgh uniform. In 1979, "Scrap Iron" contributed to the Bucs' World Series run, batting .500 (12-for-24) with five RBIs.
Although this is Garner's first trip to Pittsburgh as the Astros' manager, this was not his first visit this year. Garner was invited to PNC Park on June 16, when the Pirates gave away "We are Fam-A-Lee" action figurines of the former Bucs infielder.
The Garner figurine was one of a series of six heroes of the 1979 World Series featured this year. April 24 was Chuck Tanner Day, followed by Omar Moreno on May 22, Willie Stargell on July 27 and Dave Parker on Aug. 27. On Sept. 25, the Pirates will give away Kent Tekulve figurines.
Phil Garner Day consisted of the figurine giveaway and an announcement introducing Garner between innings. But Garner jokingly remembered that his day brought quite a bit of drama to the sometimes attendance-challenged PNC Park.
"There was a mad scramble to get the figurine," he recalled. "People were clamoring to get in. They had to have special guards that were knocking people down who were trying to get in.
"It was a very popular day. Evidentally, the women went crazy over it."
Beltran returns: Carlos Beltran returned to the starting lineup on Thursday after he assured Garner his right elbow would not prevent him from fielding his position.
Beltran was hit by a pitch on his right elbow on Tuesday and did not start Wednesday's game against the Reds in Houston, although he did pinch-hit in the eighth inning.
"He told me he would be OK to pinch hit, but he felt like he'd have trouble throwing the ball," Garner said. "He couldn't extend his elbow, and he had some swelling in there."
"I wasn't ready when I got to the ballpark [on Wednesday], but I just took two treatments and was able to get more motion in my arm," Beltran said. "I just told him that if he needed to use me in the game, I was going to be able to do it. Today I feel a lot better. I feel I have more motion."
Injection: Morgan Ensberg remained in Houston in order to receive a cortisone shot in his lower back on Thursday. The third baseman is expected to join the team in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Ensberg has not started a game since Aug. 27, when he left a road contest against the Cubs with back spasms. Initially, he thought he would miss only a few games, but including Thursday's doubleheader, the total games missed reached 13.
Mike Lamb has started at third base every game since Aug. 28 and entering the first game Thursday in Pittsburgh, had hit safely in 10 of 11 games. The Astros were 11-0 during that stretch.
Good news: Jason Alfaro carried his cell phone with him through the visitors' clubhouse at PNC as he went through his pregame routine, eagerly awaiting a call from his wife, who was expecting the couple's third child any minute.
At 2:50 p.m. ET, he finally received word that Stephanie Alfaro had delivered Connor Daniel, a healthy baby boy weighing seven pounds, 11 ounces.
"It's bittersweet," said Alfaro, who was called up to the Majors on Tuesday for the first time in his career. "I want to be there, but she told me to come here [to Pittsburgh]."
Player development awards: The Astros' player development department recently named the players of the month for August.
Right-hander Miguel Saladin was named Triple-A New Orleans pitcher of the month after allowing one earned run over 18 innings for an 0.50 ERA. Mike Coolbaugh was named offensive player of the month after batting .379 with seven homers and 26 RBIs. Zephyrs center fielder Kyle Logan was named defensive player of the month after making 57 putouts.
For Double-A Round Rock, Jared Gothreaux was named pitcher of the month after posting a 2-2 record and a 2.01 ERA over 40 1/3 innings. The right-hander walked seven and struck out 26.
Offensive player of the month Luke Scott batted .338 with five homers and 17 RBIs, while switch-hitting second baseman Brooks Conrad recorded 47 putouts and 68 assists while turning eight double plays to earn defensive player honors.
Class A Salem pitcher of the month Chris Sampson was 0-5 with a 3.86 ERA over 32 2/3 innings, while Josh Anderson was named best offensive player with a .237 average, seven RBIs and 24 stolen bases. Catcher Jeff Mackor was named defensive player of the month after recording 11 assists and helping to turn three double plays over six games.
Class A Lexington pitcher of the month Josh Meuke was 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA over 28 innings, while offensive player of the mmonth Brock Koman hit .349 with one homer and 12 RBIs. Defensive player Chad Prosser made 19 putouts and 42 assists, while helping turn eight double plays from second base.
Tri-City pitcher of the month Raymar Diaz was 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 34 innings. Offensive player of the month Ben Zobrist hit .370 with two homers and 20 RBIs, while Hunter Pence, the Astros' first pick in the 2004 First-Year Player draft, contributed 36 putouts and three assists and did not commit an error all month.
Greenveville pitcher of the month Levi Romero was 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA over 29 innings. Offensive player of the month Mitch Einertson, who was recently named the Appalachian League's player of the year, hit .343 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in August. Defensive player Pat Sellers recorded 10 putouts and 46 assists at third base.
Odds and ends: Dan Miceli celebrated his 34th birthday on Thursday by being activated from the disabled list. ... Roy Oswalt will start Sunday's finale in Pittsburgh, and after an off day on Monday, Roger Clemens will open the series in St. Louis on Tuesday. Carlos Hernandez will follow Clemens in the rotation, but Garner is waiting to announce starting pitchers for Wednesday and beyond. ... Heading into Thursday's games, there have been 314 Major League doubleheaders in the last 10 years, with 157 sweeps and 157 splits.
|Phil Garner played five seasons with the Pirates from 1977-81. (Pat Sullivan/AP)
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.