HOUSTON -- Mike Hampton is starting Sunday. Definitely.

Unless, that is, the cut on his left thumb hasn't properly healed, which apparently, if we're to read anything from the vibe in the clubhouse Saturday afternoon, is a possibility.

Although the words "definitely starting" were used more than once on Friday regarding Hampton's status for the finale with the Rangers, something apparently changed over the course of 24 hours.

"We'll wait and see on him a little bit," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I'm waiting to talk to him. I want to make sure he knows he can go tomorrow. It's his day to go."

Asked how confident he was that he would make this start, Hampton smiled and said simply, "I've got every intent to start."

That doesn't mean it's a definite, however. Russ Ortiz was called into Cooper's office Saturday morning, and Cooper told the starter-turned-reliever that he wasn't going to use him that day, just in case his services may be needed the next day.

Hampton cut his thumb on a soap dispenser last Sunday while showering in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field, and two days later, he was forced to exit his start against the Brewers after four innings. The wound is small, about the size of a paper cut. But even something that miniscule can wreak havoc on a pitcher's delivery if he cannot get the proper feel of his pitches.

Hampton threw a bullpen session between starts and took his normal round of batting practice Saturday morning -- with his thumb wrapped by a regular Band-aid.

The lefty seemed unconcerned that the cut will hold him out of another start.

"It feels all right," he siad. "Yes, I'm starting [Sunday]."

Definitely.

Or, maybe.

Pitching matchup
HOU: LHP Mike Hampton (2-3, 5.23 ERA)
Hampton had to leave his last start against the Brewers early with a small cut on his left thumb. Hampton received a no-decision after allowing two runs on three hits while walking three and striking out four before coming out after the fourth inning. Hampton will return to the mound at Minute Maid Park to face the Rangers still in search of his first win at home this season. Hampton is 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA in two career starts against the Rangers.

TEX: RHP Brandon McCarthy (3-2, 5.60 ERA)
McCarthy went seven innings and allowed four runs for his second consecutive start. He surrendered single runs in each of the first three innings on a night when the high-octane Texas offense only managed one hit. The righty gave up just two hits in his final four innings. McCarthy has appeared three times against the Astros, making one start. He allowed two earned runs in those three outings. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez has gone 6-for-10 lifetime against him with two doubles and two RBIs.

Tidbits
Rodriguez was recognized for recording his 300th home run during a pregame ceremony on the field Saturday. He was joined by his wife, Claudia, mother Eva Torres, daughters, Amanda, Tatiana and son, Louis, and his first hitting coach, Rangers coach Rudy Jaramillo. General manager Ed Wade presented Rodriguez with a shadow box featuring the 300th home run ball, a photo of the home run and the official lineup card from last Sunday's game in Chicago, where he logged the milestone homer. ... Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were both included on The Sporting News' 50 Greatest Players in Baseball Today list released earlier in the week. The list was selected by a panel of 100 Hall of Famers, major award winners and other baseball personalities. Berkman is No. 21, while Oswalt is No. 46. ... Chris Sampson, who turned 31 on Saturday, was told by Cooper that he'd be off that day "unless we go 18 innings." Sampson had pitched in three consecutive games and five of the Astros' last six.

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Up next
• Monday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 5-2, 1.83) at Reds (Aaron Harang, 4-4, 3.19), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 1-2, 4.47) at Reds (Micah Owings, 3-5, 4.70), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Astros (Felipe Paulino, 1-3, 6.90) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 6-3, 5.79), 6:10 p.m. CT