Notes: Alcohol policy remains same
Sampson pushed back because of sinus infection
ST. LOUIS -- As soon as the news arrived on Friday that the Cardinals, still reeling from the death of pitcher Josh Hancock, banned alcohol from their home clubhouse, questions were raised about other teams' policies regarding allowing beer and liquor into the clubhouse.
It's no big secret that beer is available in visiting clubhouses. The theory is that players can drink on the road, when they're not driving.
But some clubs also allow for alcoholic beverages to be served at home, even though most players drive to and from the ballpark.
The Astros have not provided alcohol on their home premises for at least 12 years, general manager Tim Purpura estimated. That was just a couple of years after Drayton McLane took over ownership of the team.
"You examine a lot of policies and procedures and certainly it was an issue from a liability point of view," Purpura said. "You want to protect yourself. But also, if you look at the type of organization we have become, that fits with our approach to things.
"We haven't [provided alcohol] for a long, long time. Well back in the [Astrodome] days."
Purpura has never had any requests from players to reverse the policy.
"It fits with our image," he said of the ban. "It's not the kind of operation we would run. That's no knock on anybody else. Our owner has certain standards that he wants us to live by, and we do."
Under the weather: Diagnosed with sinusitis (a severe sinus infection), Chris Sampson missed the final home game with the Reds Thursday and spent the night in the hospital while the team traveled to St. Louis.
Sampson was scratched from his start Friday and is expected to fly to St. Louis on Saturday night. He is slated to start the finale at Busch Stadium on Sunday.
"He's very congested, he really felt lousy," Purpura said. "He was just really hurting."
Woody Williams started in Sampson's place against the Cardinals on Friday. Because the Astros had an off-day Monday, Williams pitched on regular rest.
"We were giving him the extra day, hoping that it would help his [bruised] shin," manager Phil Garner said. "That was why we originally did that, but he's fine. He's ready to go."
Matt Albers will start Saturday, on short rest. The right-hander threw 70 pitches in his last outing.
Jennings inching closer: Jason Jennings continues to stay on schedule in terms of rehabbing his right elbow, but his return to the Astros is probably going to come at the end of May.
Jennings is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday and another Saturday, and if all goes well, he could begin a Minor League rehab assignment five days after that, on May 17.
"Generally, that is the plan, but it will depend how he feels after each outing to determine if that schedule holds up," Purpura said.
Assuming Jennings will make two rehab starts, he will pitch again in the Minors on May 22, and could start for the Astros on May 27.
"They want to take it slow, and I understand that," Jennings said. "It's frustrating. I was out longer than I expected. There's a lot of season left. I'd rather be back the last four months than rush back now and go through this all over again."
Making progress: When a team struggles, good performances from individual players usually get overlooked, and that probably has been true in Wandy Rodriguez's case.
Rodriguez, the Astros' lone left-handed starter, is in the midst of the best run of his career, having strung together two solid outings in which he's allowed three or fewer runs. He's pitched seven innings in each of those starts and has walked only two over 14 innings.
Rodriguez has really had only one questionable outing all year. He allowed six runs over six innings in a loss in Milwaukee on April 21, but before that, he held opponents to four runs over 13 innings in his first two starts of the year.
There's just one problem -- he has not got a single win to show for it. Rodriguez is 0-3 with two no-decisions this year. He hasn't won a game since July 2.
"It bothers me a little bit," Rodriguez said. "But every time out, I just want to do my job, keep the game close so that we'll be able to win the game."
Rodriguez has been criticized in the past for looking tentative on the mound, but Garner senses that's not been the case this year.
"We were too quick to judge him on his outward appearance, his body language," Garner said. "That's deceptive. He'll be fine. I'm proud of him."
Coming up: The Astros and Cardinals will meet on Saturday for an early start time of 12:10 p.m. CT. Albers (0-1, 5.02) is the likely starter for the Astros. He will face Cardinals righty Kip Wells (1-5, 5.65).
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.