Notes: Rotation after break all set
Pettitte, Oswalt, Clemens to start second half at Busch
HOUSTON -- Although the Houston Astros still have a handful of games remaining before the All-Star break, manager Phil Garner is already looking beyond the break and planning his second-half strategy.
Garner has decided how his pitching staff will shake out when play resumes on Friday, July 15 in St. Louis. Andy Pettitte will open the series, followed by Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens. Brandon Backe will continue his role as the No. 4 starter, and Wandy Rodriguez will follow Backe.
Pettitte's final start before the All-Star break will be on Wednesday, the third game of the current series with the visiting Padres, and because he'll have the longest layoff between starts, Pettitte was assigned the first game after the break by Garner.
Garner is going on the assumption that Oswalt and Clemens will be pitching in the All-Star Game, even though Oswalt's only chance to make the team is if the fans vote him in via the Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote, which will be announced after the polls close at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
It's not a coincidence that Clemens is slated to start the third game after the break. Should Clemens start the All-Star Game, the game on July 17 in St. Louis would be on four days' rest, which is the normal time in between starts.
Did that have any influence over Garner's decision about how to line up the rotation?
"A little," Garner said.
Lidge ready: Brad Lidge was cleared to pitch prior to Tuesday's game, but Garner isn't ready to throw him back into the closer's role just yet.
Lidge had not pitched since June 24 because of a strain in the lower part of his right bicep. He threw a full bullpen session on Monday without incident, and he was cleared to pitch on Tuesday -- in a non-save sitaution.
"We won't use him in the ninth," Garner said. "He's going to tune it up, and if he feels something, we don't want him to try to get through it. I'd want him to back off. If he throws to one batter and feels something, then I don't want him to try to get through it."
Setup man Dan Wheeler, arguably the club's most reliable reliever, will assume the closer's role, if necessary.
"I told (Lidge) we'd probably use him in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and he'll have to strike out the side," Garner joked. "But it won't be the ninth."
Blum's return: Several former Astros now play for the Padres, including Geoff Blum, who was traded during the Winter Meetings in 2003. Blum was dealt to the Devil Rays in exchange for Brandon Backe, who started Tuesday's game at Minute Maid Park.
Blum has been a busy man lately. His wife, Kory, gave birth to triplets on May 3. That's a total of four daughters, including their first-born, 17-month-old Mia.
The casual Astros fan may remember Blum for his unique hobby of changing his hair color every couple of months. Sometimes it was black, or red, or blue, or silver, or ghost white. But these days, he's going back to the basics with his natural blond.
His kids are the main reason why he's given up the dye jobs.
"I've got four daughters now, and one that can actually recognize me now," he said. "My wife is threatening that if I do anything crazy to my hair, that my daughter may not recognize me. I don't want that."
Asked what it was like to be the only man in a houseful of women, Blum smiled.
"I'm hanging around with 40 guys a day," he said. "I get plenty of that during the day, so to go home and see five beautiful faces, it's truly a blessing."
Odds and ends: Garner plans to hold a voluntary workout at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, July 14, after the All-Star break. Garner doesn't expect the workout to be well attended, because many of the players will be out of town and are meeting the team in St. Louis the day of the first game at Busch Stadium. ... The Astros will host a tryout camp on July 12 at Weatherford Junior College in Weatherford, Texas, just west of Ft. Worth. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. CT and the camp starts at 9 a.m.
Coming up: The four-game set with the Padres continues on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. CT. Pettitte (5-7, 3.15 ERA) will face Padres right-hander Jake Peavy (7-2, 2.89).
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.