HOUSTON -- After hitting 18 home runs this year at Triple-A Las Vegas prior to being traded to the Astros, rookie first baseman Brett Wallace was still waiting on his first homer after 37 at-bats as a Major Leaguer entering Monday's game.
"It would be nice, but honestly my biggest thing is taking good swings," said Wallace, who was hitting .270 with five RBIs. "I'm going to try not to think about it and try not to rush it, but being a guy that hit home runs in the Minor Leagues, you definitely would like to get that first one out of the way."
Rookie third baseman Chris Johnson, who leads the National League in hitting since the All-Star break, said hitting his first career homer earlier this year at Wrigley Field eased his mind. Wallace certainly can relate.
"Your first hit, your first run and things like that you think, 'Man, I haven't done that in the big leagues yet,'" said Wallace, who hit 46 homers in 1,119 career Minor League at-bats. "For me, I think, if you get the first one, you calm down and you realize if you hit home runs you can hit them here, and if you can hit for a high average you're going to do it here, too. The biggest thing for me is to get comfortable and keep grinding and be loose."
Speedster Bourn works to improve bunting
HOUSTON -- Wanting center fielder Michael Bourn to take better advantage of his speed, Astros manager Brad Mills sat Bourn down Monday afternoon and had him watch video of a player from another team putting down a bunt in a game that was played on Sunday.
"We kept playing it over and over and slowed it down and saw the technique and how he might apply some of that technique," Mills said. "Not that he needs to go to that, but with his tools being his wheels, if he can advantage of that would be outstanding."
Bourn had put down 15 bunts in his first 415 at-bats this year, with six hits and three sacrifice hits. That's well shy of his pace from a year ago, when he put down 37 bunts in 606 at-bats and had 17 hits and five sacrifice bunts.
"People consider me a good bunter, but I don't consider myself that great of a bunter," Bourn said. "I think I've got a lot to work on. I can get them down sometimes and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I go through a phase and I might get three or four down in a row. The consistency of bunting, that's the biggest key. I haven't found one little niche that works every time."
Bourn, who entered Monday in an 0-for-13 streak that saw his batting average (.248) and on-base percentage (.325) drop, was out of the lineup Monday against a left-handed starting pitcher. Bourn had just four hits in his previous 25 at-bats.
Michaels assumes role as veteran leader
HOUSTON -- The Astros, as they are doing most games these days, started four rookies once again Monday with Angel Sanchez at shortstop, Chris Johnson at third base, Brett Wallace at first base and Jason Castro at catcher.
Jason Michaels, 34, got the start for the Astros in center field against the Mets, which marked his 19th start of the season and eighth in center. The departure of veterans Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman at the Trade Deadline leaves Michaels in a shrinking group of older players, but he enjoys playing alongside the youngsters.
"It's nice to see some of these young guys really doing a great job," he said. "I think, as a whole, we're playing better as a team. We're playing better and that creates a batter chance of winning."
Michaels and clubhouse neighbor Geoff Blum are two of the guys the younger players look up to now that Oswalt and Berkman are gone.
"They're great players, and I don't know if you can ever replace them and what they meant to this organization," Michaels said. "In respect to Geoff and I, we try to keep it sane in here, I guess."
Arbitration panel denies Chacon's grievance
HOUSTON -- The three-person arbitration panel, which last September heard a grievance filed by pitcher Shawn Chacon against the Astros, has denied the player's grievance. Chacon was released by the Astros two years ago after a physical altercation with general manager Ed Wade.
The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of Chacon and in an attempt to collect the remaining $983,607 on the pitcher's contract. Chacon signed a one-year deal worth $2 million shortly after Spring Training began in 2008.
Shyam Das, the chairman of the panel which also included representatives from Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, stated that the Astros were within their rights to terminate Chacon's contract without his entitlement to further compensation after the player attacked and assaulted Wade on June 25, 2008.
The Astros received the official written ruling on Monday.
"We're pleased with the ruling," Wade said. "It was an unfortunate incident, and we're glad to put it behind us."
Chacon was given his unconditional release following the attack, and the team invoked Paragraph 7 (b) (1) of the Uniform Players Contract, which denied the player any further compensation on his 2008 contract.
Second baseman Jeff Keppinger left Monday's game in the eighth inning with a sprained left big toe. He will have a precautionary X-ray on Tuesday. ... Right-hander Felipe Paulino, who's been on the disabled list, threw again Monday off flat ground for about eight to 10 minutes at 75 feet.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.