HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills and hitting coach Jeff Bagwell presented long-time Braves manager Bobby Cox with a pair of boots and a Stetson hat in an on-field ceremony prior to Tuesday's game at Minute Maid Park.

Cox, who's managed the Braves for 25 years, is planning to retire at the end of the season. He's fourth on the all-time managerial wins list and led the Braves to the 1995 World Series title. The Braves and Astros met five times in the playoffs between 1997 and 2005.

While Bagwell was busy paying tribute to Cox, the manager took some time to tip his hat to Bagwell, too. Cox said Bagwell should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. He's eligible for the first time next year.

"I think he's got a great chance at it," Cox said. "I certainly would vote for him. He not only was a good slugger and a good hitter, he was a great defensive first baseman who knew how to run the bases.

"Jeff Bagwell was here for so long and starred every year. For me, a guy that dominated like that for one team, even in the league with stats through the years, his are up there with anybody's. I would put him in right away. So he would get my vote on the first ballot."

Lee swinging hot bat in August

HOUSTON -- Carlos Lee woke up Tuesday morning and found himself hitting .251, which marked his highest batting average since going 2-for-4 on Opening Day. Lee had a pair of bloop hits that scored runs on Monday, and considering how much he's struggled this year, he was grateful for both of them.

"I don't know if I'm due for that, but it's nice to see them coming, especially with people on base," Lee said. "Sometimes all you can do is try to drive in a guy, and it works out that way. I hope to keep it going."

Entering Tuesday's game, Lee was hitting .419 (13-for-31) in August and had 10 RBIs in his previous 10 games, putting him in a tie with Hunter Pence for the team lead with 58 on the season. He was also the third-hardest player to strike out in the NL (one strikeout in every 10.55 plate appearances).

"I was down in the .220s for a while," Lee said. "The fun part is we're playing good baseball and winning games and playing good. The guys are happy and everybody is playing hard and going out, and you can't ask for anything better than this, especially with the young guys playing and getting opportunities to play. We're having fun."

Moehler hopes to return this season

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Brian Moehler, who's been on the disabled list since July 8 with a right groin strain, rejoined the team on Tuesday after getting his groin examined by Dr. Bill Myers in Philadelphia on Monday.

Myers tore a tendon off a bone in the groin area and opted not to have surgery as he hopes to return this season.

"I asked what I should do and [Myers] said, 'I want you to go back to Houston and do everything I can do, throw, run everything,'" Moehler said. "He said, 'You've torn the tendon off the bone that's part [of] the groin, but you don't need it. We see it all the time in football players and hockey and soccer [players] and they don't do surgery.'

"'It's not a muscle that you don't need. There's more muscles to take place of that one. That's the good news.' He said see if you can tolerate it and do everything you can and we'll go from here."

Moehler, who is getting his throwing and running in, was also diagnosed a grade one abdominal tear (grade three is the worst) in the same area and will undergo surgery at the end of the year. The procedure carries a rehab time of only three weeks.

"I've got a long way to go," Moehler said. "I have to get on the mound, and that's where it's been bothering me. As far as next year, I'll be 100 percent. I'm glad I know that and I'm very optimistic about it."

Melancon excited to be up with Astros

HOUSTON -- With the Astros looking to get younger in the coming years, right-handed reliever Mark Melancon viewed his trade to Houston from the Yankees as a chance to be part of the youth movement and get more playing time.

"I'm extremely excited," said Melancon, who joined the team just prior to Monday's game at Minute Maid Park after being called up from Triple-A Round Rock. "I think this is a good spot. I really enjoy Texas. I've only been here a little bit, but there's great people and [the Astros are] a great team, so obviously I'm excited."

Melancon, 25, was acquired by the Astros with Minor League infielder Jimmy Paredes on July 31 in exchange for Lance Berkman. He appeared in two games for the Yankees this year, but spent most of this season splitting time between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Round Rock.

"It's a huge opportunity," Melancon said. "Hopefully we can turn this around sooner than later. That's definitely a goal and everybody is on board with that. I can see that."

Astros still working to sign Draft picks

HOUSTON -- With the deadline to sign players selected in the First-Year Player Draft arriving on Monday, the Astros are in negotiations with five players and hope to sign at least four -- and perhaps all five -- before the deadline.

"We're exclusive to pursuing the five players at this point in time," assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. "Others that are unsigned, outside of that five, either we've determined to continue evaluations and [they] are better off going to school, or we've been unable to bridge a gap between what our evaluated value is compared to how they value themselves.

"Some just said they'd rather go to school, and that's typical of your later round drafts when you take fliers on [players] for numbers."

The Astros are very close to reaching a deal with 25th-round pick Rodney Quintero, a right-hander from Chipola Junior College in Miami. Third-round pick Austin Wates, an outfielder from Virginia Tech with one year of eligibility remaining, is one of the players the Astros still hope to sign, and he was in Houston on Monday for a physical.

"We're putting a lot of time and effort into that," Heck said. "We wanted to make sure the physical aspect was done, because on a deadline deal, if you don't get it, you're unable to get it done in time. Then it's all buyer beware."

One of the players that likely will go unsigned is high school standout Jacoby Jones, a shortstop taken in the 19th round.

"We have a high value on him, but it's not close to where it's going to take for him to forgo LSU," said Heck, who has signed 33 players from this year's Draft and six non-drafted free agents.