WASHINGTON -- Lance Berkman narrowly escaped a disastrous injury during batting practice on Wednesday, after a Jason Jennings ground ball took a bad hop and deflected off the first baseman's sunglasses.

The ball hit Berkman above his left eye, but instead of taking the hit directly, he was protected by the sunglasses, which broke on contact.

Berkman managed a smile as manager Phil Garner and athletic trainers Dave Labossiere and Rex Jones raced to check on the first baseman.

"It's actually a little disappointing," Berkman joked. "If I hadn't been wearing my Oakleys, I would have definitely been out today and probably a couple of days. It would have gotten me right on the side, which is perfect. Not enough to do significant eye damage, but a few stitches and a couple of days off."

Instead, Berkman was left with a small red mark on his left eyebrow.

"It could have been pretty ugly," he said.

"He's OK," Garner said. "It could have been nasty."

Berkman, who has been dealing with a swollen left hand for much of the season, plans to have undergo X-rays when the team is in Pittsburgh, for precautionary reasons. The pain has been due mostly to being repeatedly jammed on too many inside pitches.

"Not that it can't be just a bad bruise, but if there is something there, I'd like to know about it," Berkman said.

Skipper Ausmus: By now, it's no secret that within the baseball industry that Brad Ausmus is considered to be a prime managerial candidate, if he chooses to pursue that line of work when his playing career is complete.

But even now, as an active player, Ausmus has received a taste of life as a manager. Because he's sharing playing time with Eric Munson, Ausmus is in the dugout for two to three games a week. He spends much of his time talking strategy with Garner, who welcomes the company.

Garner believes Ausmus has the necessary tools to be a great manager, including a good temperament and an ability to relate to both position players and pitchers.

"He's got a very quick wit," Garner said. "I don't know that that's necessary, but it helps. He's very confident. That part gets tested. The things you do aren't always going to work.

"You have to have confidence, but you also have to have the ability to sort of take an honest look at yourself. Sometimes, you have to change what you feel is right, but in my opinion, sometimes you have to be a little bit flexible. I think he can do that, too."

But Garner doesn't want to toot Ausmus' horn too soon. After all, he doesn't want to give owner Drayton McLane any ideas.

"I have to keep him playing, because if he starts managing, he'll be better than me," Garner laughed. "I have to keep him on the field."

"Yeah, but if he keeps playing me more, he may end up losing his job anyway," Ausmus responded.

Scheduling: Craig Biggio will start the first game of the upcoming three-game set in Pittsburgh, with Chris Burke starting at second base on Saturday and Sunday.

When the team returns home on Monday, Biggio will receive regular playing time for night games, but will likely be off for the day games. The Astros have night games Monday through Friday, with day games next Saturday and Sunday (July 28-29).

Coming up: The Astros will enjoy a scheduled day off Thursday before opening a three-game set in Pittsburgh beginning Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Roy Oswalt (8-6, 3.91 ERA) will face left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (9-4, 3.24).