HOUSTON -- The news that former Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff died early Wednesday from complications of melanoma hit home for Astros bullpen coach Jamie Quirk, who was a teammate of Splittorff for four years and caught him on 10 different occasions.
"I knew that he had gone into the hospital a week ago or less," Quirk said. "The word had spread that he wasn't doing well and I heard this morning. Split was a great teammate, a great professional, taught me a lot about catching. I was a converted catcher and used to sit with him and go over hitters. He had a big influence in my career."
Splittorff spent his entire 15-year Major League career with the Royals and had a 166-143 record and 3.81 ERA in 429 regular-season games. He was in four postseasons with Kansas City, 1976, '77, '78 and '80, reaching the World Series in the latter year. His postseason mark was 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA. Both wins were against the Yankees, in 1976 and '77.
He not only holds the Royals' career record for victories, but he is the leader in starts (392) and innings pitched (2,554 2/3). Splittorff became the club's first 20-game winner in 1973, when he went 20-11. He was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1987.
Splittorff was in his 24th year working as an analyst on Royals broadcasts, and Quirk filled in for him on a few occasions in 2009, when he wasn't coaching.
"You had George Brett, who's the No. 1 Royal, and Frank White is probably No. 2," Quirk said. "No one has ever gotten past that, but I would still put Splitt No. 3. In Kansas City, he's gotten his due because he was a former player to broadcaster for 20-something years, and first as a pitcher, but I don't think people realize some of the things he's accomplished."
Astros expected to activate Keppinger
HOUSTON -- As expected, the Astros announced following Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Dodgers that they are going to activate infielder Jeff Keppinger in time for Friday's game against the D-backs.
Houston optioned backup outfielder Brian Bogusevic to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room on the roster.
Keppinger, who has been on the disabled list the entire season after undergoing foot surgery on Jan. 14, was scheduled to play in his 12th and final Minor League rehab game Wednesday for the RedHawks, and if all goes well, he'll join the Astros on Friday.
The move leaves the Astros with four outfielders and seven infielders.
"Everybody knows our three [starting] outfielders are going to play," said manager Brad Mills. "You don't take those guys out. [Matt] Downs has played some outfield, Billy Hall has played some outfield. It's not like we're naked out there, and we have [Jason] Michaels as well."
Keppinger, 31, hit .288 for the Astros last year, led the team with 34 doubles and had 59 RBIs in 137 games. He wrestled the starting second-base job away from Kaz Matsui in May and became arguably the Astros' most consistent player.
Keppinger has been playing strictly second base while on his rehab assignment, but it's unsure how much playing time he'll get. Bill Hall, Angel Sanchez and Downs have all seen time at second this year.
"We're going to talk about some things," Mills said. "We'll see exactly how it works and how it goes through there with him. With each guy, it's not going to be an easy shuffle. It's really not. At the same time, I've got confidence in any one of those guys."
Wallace stays in Astros' lineup against lefty
HOUSTON -- First baseman Brett Wallace has been in the starting lineup in half of the Astros' 16 games in which they've faced a left-handed pitcher.
Wallace started for the eighth time against a lefty Wednesday, when the Dodgers sent Ted Lilly to the mound in the series finale. He went 1-for-4 in the Astros' 2-1 walk-off win.
Houston manager Brad Mills said his decision to play the left-handed-hitting Wallace against southpaws is weighted against several factors, including how well he's swung the bat against a particular pitcher and if other players need some at-bats. Mills has put Carlos Lee at first base and started Jason Michaels in left field on occasion this year.
"His whole career, coming up in the Minor Leagues, he's hit left-handers extremely well with no problems at all, and he's still having good at-bats up there against lefties," Mills said. "As he progresses and gains more experience and continues to get batter, that's not going to be an issue at all. If it is now, it's trying to get other guys at-bats."
Mills said he told Wallace in Spring Training he would sit against the occasional lefty.
"I've told him that's a good time to get some other guys some at-bats, too," Mills said. "He wants to play, as they all do. That's the kind of guys you want, you want them to want to be out there. At the same time, they know what we're trying to do collectively as a ballclub."
Lyon expects to discuss comeback this week
HOUSTON -- Astros closer Brandon Lyon is making strides and throwing briefly each day despite biceps tendinitis and a partially torn rotator cuff, which landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
Lyon threw off flat ground for 10 minutes on Monday, and he said he did the same Tuesday and expects to discuss comeback plans with manager Brad Mills by the end of the week. Lyon would still need to face hitters and likely make a Minor League rehab assignment before returning.
"I think if everything goes well today, we'll probably have a better idea Friday to sit down and go over more of a timeframe of everything," Lyon said. "Right now, it's just about building up arm strength before you can go ahead and throw on the mound."
Lyon hadn't thrown since his last appearance, on May 4 at Cincinnati, when he allowed three runs and four hits without recording an out.
The right-hander said he still feels tightness and soreness, which is natural after his pitching stint. "I'm just going off how I feel, and I expect to feel a little soreness," Lyon said. "I feel probably better than I thought I would feel, but I still don't want to get overconfident and start doing things I shouldn't be doing."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.