HOUSTON -- Right fielder Hunter Pence was out of the starting lineup for Friday's game against the Cubs, marking his first time out of the lineup since May 27. Cory Sullivan made his fourth start of the season and second in right field.
While Pence wasn't in the lineup, manager Brad Mills didn't want to call it an off-day.
"He's played 25 days in a row, and I told him, 'Don't shut it down, because you're going to get in this one somewhere probably,'" Mills said. "We're probably going to need to have him. He's not starting, but at the same time, he's probably going to get into that thing and hopefully contribute near the end."
Also, Geoff Blum got his third start at shortstop Friday despite a .143 (5-for-35) career average against Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. Regular starting shortstop Tommy Manzella has not faced Zambrano in his career.
"The numbers don't really match up that well, but I thought it was a good time to at least let [Manzella] watch a few innings," Mills said. "He'll get in there, too."
Oswalt not planning on All-Star nod
HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, who ranks 15th in the National League in ERA (2.78), is tied for sixth in strikeouts (72), tied for 16th in innings pitched (71 1/3) and is 12th in opponents' batting average against (.217), doesn't expect to get much All-Star consideration.
Oswalt will enter Saturday's start with a 3-7 record, thanks to the second-lowest run support in the NL at 2.52 runs. He's thrown seven innings or more in seven of his past nine starts.
"It's going to be hard unless you get the numbers up there, as far as wins and losses," Oswalt said. "The one thing that's different between pitching and hitting is you can start out slow hitting and make up ground before the All-Star Game, and when you're a pitcher and have six or seven losses, it' hard to make that up before the All-Star break."
Oswalt is a three-time All-Star (2005-07) and has certainly pitched well enough to put himself in consideration. He started the year with 10 consecutive quality starts before getting ejected in the third inning in his previous start Monday against Washington.
"You try not to look at the wins and losses and you try to put your team in a position to win," Oswalt said. "That's why in Spring Training I say you never try to win 20 games. You never know what you're going to get when you get out there, as far as you could pitch a good game and lose and pitch a bad game and win."
Norris uses full arsenal in bullpen session
HOUSTON -- Right-hander Bud Norris, who's been on the disabled list since May 24 with bursitis and biceps tendinitis, threw his second bullpen session Friday since being diagnosed with the injury. Norris threw 50 pitches and worked his complete arsenal.
"I felt great," he said.
Norris, 25, is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday in Colorado, but he said he's not aware of a timetable for his return. He could have to go to the Minor Leagues and make at least one rehab start before rejoining the Astros.
Norris last pitched May 23 against Tampa Bay and left after five innings. He's 2-5 with a 6.80 ERA in nine starts and has struck out 54 batters in 43 2/3 innings. He threw off the mound earlier this week and threw strictly fastballs, but he worked in his breaking pitches Friday.
Bourn sad to see college coach go
HOUSTON -- Upon learning University of Houston coach Rayner Noble was out of a job Friday after 16 seasons, former Cougars baseball player and Astros center fielder Michael Bourn was caught by surprise. Noble also recruited Lance Berkman while an assistant at crosstown Rice University.
"It's always surprising when you see someone lose their job," said Bourn, who played at UH from 2001-03 before being drafted by the Phillies. "You know how much time and work and hard effort he put into it. I will say I wish the best for coach Noble and his family.
"I know his family and two daughters, so I wish the best for them, and I know he'll find another job elsewhere without any question. Best wishes to him down the road."
The Cougars made it to the NCAA Tournament all three seasons Bourn was on the team and lost in the Super Regionals in 2002 to eventual national champion Texas and again in 2003 to eventual national champion Rice. Jesse Crain, Chris Snyder, Rob Johnson and Ryan Wagner were among the other Major Leaguers who were college teammates of Bourn.
"Coach Noble was a hard-nosed coach, and I liked that," Bourn said. "My dad was like that to me [when he coached me and Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford as youths], so I was used to it. He was always trying to get the best out of you."
Astros reach out to previously drafted players
HOUSTON -- Bobby Heck, the Astros' general manager in charge of scouting, said former Houston Draft picks Derek Dietrich, Brett Eibner and Chad Bettis have all signed consent forms to be drafted by the Astros again. All three were drafted in 2007 but didn't sign with the club and attended college instead.
"We've reached out and re-established a relationship with the three players," Heck said. "They're all players who we do have interest in, and we've continued the evaluation process. They have signed consent to re-select [forms] if we decide to select them. We've done the work there, and they would like to be Astros."
Dietrich, a third baseman, was drafted in the third round by the Astros and wound up attending Georgia Tech. Eibner, a right-hander/outfielder from the Houston area, went in the fourth round and went to Arkansas. Bettis, a right-hander, attends Texas Tech.
General manager Ed Wade said the Astros want to draft the best player available, regardless if they've been drafted by the club before or not.
"Whether one of those three players or somebody [whose father] has a legacy in the organization is the right player at the right time, we're going to talk to that player," Wade said.
Dickie Thon Jr., whose father, Dickie Thon, was an All-Star shortstop for the Astros in 1983, attended the Astros' pre-Draft workout Thursday.
Astros assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said Triple-A Round Rock first baseman Chris Shelton will be out four to six weeks with a knee injury. He said the club plans to give former first-round pick Brian Bogusevic a look at first base in the near future. ... Right-hander Evan Englebrook, who was designated for assignment earlier this week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.