Oswalt not fickle about next destination
Astros hurler willing to play for any team, as long as they contend
HOUSTON -- When it comes to a preferred destination, Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt isn't being too picky, as long as he gets a chance to play for a contender.
Oswalt, who has been the center of speculation since he asked for a trade two months ago, reiterated Monday the stance he's had since May, in that he'd be willing to play in any region of the country -- East Coast and West Coast included -- if it meant he'd be in a pennant race.
"Location doesn't matter," he said.
Oswalt, scheduled to start Friday against the Brewers at Minute Maid Park in his latest attempt to tie the Astros' all-time wins record, has been pursued heavily by the Phillies and Cardinals, both of whom he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause for to finish the season.
Oswalt, who is 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA, is owed the remainder of the $15 million he was scheduled to make this year, along with $16 million next year. He has a $16 million club option for 2012, but has said money won't be an issue if he finds a deal he likes.
Wade disappointed first-rounder isn't signed
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Ed Wade said Monday he was disappointed first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr., an athletic outfielder drafted out of high school in College Park, Ga., wasn't yet signed. The Astros drafted DeShields No. 8 overall in the June 7 First-Year Player Draft, and have until Aug. 16 to reach a deal.
DeShields Jr., who has signed a baseball scholarship to play at LSU, was the first of three first-round picks by the Astros. The other two -- high school power pitcher Mike Foltynewicz at No. 19 and University of Minnesota third baseman Mike Kvasnicka at No. 33 -- signed shortly after being picked.
"There's so few guys signed [in the first round], but at the same time, I would be less than candid if I didn't say I was disappointed that he's not signed," Wade said. "We take a lot of pride in the work the guys have done from a player development standpoint, and we understand how these at-bats can enhance a guy's chances and movement.
"The only thing we have to do is point at the guy who crouches behind the plate at the Major League level, Jason Castro. He was signed in July of 2008 and is now in the big leagues. If Jason had waited until the very last moment to sign and didn't have the benefit of those at-bats in July and August of 2008, it would be rather unlikely he would be catching at the big league level at this point."
Wade said talks are ongoing and remains hopeful to strike a deal.
"I think everybody involved, both Delino and his family and the Astros, would love to get him into our system playing as quickly as possible, so we're looking at a full-season opportunity next year versus extended Spring Training," Wade said. "This is part of the process. There are very few first-round picks signed at this point, and it's sort of a way of our world. We just hope they don't get to a point upon reflection [and then say], 'We should have done this a lot sooner.' I think it's best he gets out and gets playing."
Slumping Berkman takes early BP
HOUSTON -- Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, who was hitting .190 (12-for-63) in the month of July entering Monday's game, took early batting practice before the series opener against the Cubs, thrown from injured teammate Tommy Manzella. Berkman was in a 1-for-23 slump before hitting an RBI single in his first at-bat Monday.
When asked how he felt at the plate prior to the game, Berkman was candid: "Not very good, obviously," he said.
Berkman, whose average had dipped to .236 from .255 on July 11, has been hitting some balls hard in the wrong spots, but he admits he's been struggling.
"It's hard to go 2-for-30, or whatever it is, without some of that," he said. "You have to have some bad luck along with poor performance."
Astros manager Brad Mills understands how difficult slumps can be for hitters.
"You'd like to say that none of your hitters go through something like that, but they do," Mills said. "It's just something where you get them some confidence and try to keep it light where you don't get bogged down with it. It was nice to see him take some swings today and hit some balls on the button and be able to get that feel of what it feels like to smoke some balls."
Lyon gets shot in the arm
HOUSTON -- Right-hander reliever Brandon Lyon received an injection into his right forearm on Monday to help him combat a rash he's been dealing with over the last few days, but he was available to pitch in the series against the Cubs.
Lyon suffered abrasions to the forearm while diving for an out at first base last week, and then developed a rash from the adhesive on the bandage, manager Brad Mills said.
"They put a bandage on it, and his arm reacted to the bandage," Mills said. "He got a rash, and it was really bothering him. It's a pretty good rash, so he went to the doctor, and the doctor gave him some stuff to calm the rash down.
Lyon (6-4) leads Houston in appearances (45) and holds (17). He has stranded all seven of his inherited runners this season, and owns a 2.82 ERA in his last 39 appearances.
Astros infielder Geoff Blum, who had surgery July 7 to remove loose bone chips in his right elbow, took 15 swings left-handed and about seven right-handed on Monday in his first live batting-practice sessions since the procedure. ... Right-hander Jeff Fulchino allowed one hit in one scoreless inning in his first rehab stint Monday for Triple-A Round Rock against Iowa. He threw 12 pitches, including eight strikes.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.