HOUSTON -- With his team mired in an eight-game losing streak entering Friday, Astros manager Brad Mills held a team meeting with the players following batting practice. Mills wouldn't give specifics on what was discussed, but said the goal was to get better.
"There are certain things we want to talk about, and that's the biggest thing," he said. "There are some things we need to work on and things we need to get tightened up in how we play. I think with the guys we have here we need to work on some of those things, and we'll talk about tightening some things up."
The Astros were 22-23 through 45 games, but entered Friday having lost 28 of their last 38 games to fall to the bottom of the NL Central standings.
Mills said some of the reasons the Astros have struggled have had to do with the schedule. They used a four-man pitching rotation early in the season and took advantage of frequent off days to rest the bullpen, a bullpen which has been hit hard in recent weeks.
The Astros are 0-7 in extra-inning games, including 0-6 on the road, and have yet to score a run in extra innings. They've also been outscored 42-16 in the ninth inning and watched the opponent win 13 games in the last at-bat.
"There are adjustments we have to learn simply because we have such a young club," Mills said.
Schafer back in lineup after meeting with Mills
HOUSTON -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who was pulled from Wednesday's game for manager Brad Mills called "behavioral reasons," returned to the lineup Friday against the Brewers. Mills and Schafer were able to talk it over Thursday and are ready to look ahead.
"Everything's good," Schafer said. "We're on the same page and everything will be alright."
When asked what Mills wants to see out of him, Schafer said: "I just need to go out and play hard and the rest will take care of itself. We had a good talk yesterday and we'll be OK going forward."
Schafer, one of four players the Astros acquired a year ago in the Michael Bourn trade with the Braves, hasn't performed as well the last two months as he did earlier in the season. He was hitting .214 with a .285 on-base percentage in his 33 games prior to Friday. He batted .262 with a .352 on-base percentage in his first 29 games.
"I've been kind of lost the last month," Schafer said. "It's hasn't been fun, but hopefully I can take a break and get away and clear my mind out a little bit and get back to how I was performing the first month, month-and-a-half of the year."
Mills sees Schafer as bursting with potential and wants him to utilize those skills.
"He's an asset to any ballclub when he does that, and that's what we're trying to get out of him on a consistent basis," Mills said. "It's not just him. That's part of being a Major League player, is being able to make those adjustments and learn what it's going to take on a daily basis to get to where you need to get."
With Lee out, Norris now one of longest tenured Astros
HOUSTON -- It's been only three years since pitcher Bud Norris made his Major League debut for the Astros, but as he looked around the clubhouse on Friday it struck him that he was suddenly one of the elder statesmen. The only two players who have been on the Astros longer are Wandy Rodriguez and Wesley Wright, who has spent much of his Houston career in the Minors.
In the past two years, the Astros have traded long-time players such as Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Carlos Lee, as well as outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, both of whom were established in Houston before Norris arrived.
"I know we had to make some changes and we did, and to see Lance and Roy and other pieces go away, like Carlos, has been tough," Norris said. "At the end of the day, once the Trade Deadline passes, we have to go out there and play baseball. That's our job, to play the game and leave it on the field with everything we've got."
Norris made his Major League debut on July 29, 2009 in a game in which the Astros had, Lee, Pence, Bourn, Jeff Keppinger, Miguel Tejada, Geoff Blum, Ivan Rodriguez, Kaz Matsui and Mike Hampton in the starting lineup.
"When I came up in '09, we were in contention and just a few years removed from the World Series and we had a veteran ballclub," he said. "l learned a lot from them on how to go about my business, but at the same token, we've accepted we're still here and we need to stick together. A lot of guys are starting to help each other out and help that transition. It is what it is. We don't have any control. We have to go out there and do our jobs."
• Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was presented with his National League All-Star Game jersey prior to Friday's game by manager Brad Mills. Altuve, the Astros lone representative, will leave Sunday night for Kansas City and will play in the second half of the game, according to NL manager Tony La Russa.
• Right-hander Wilton Lopez, who's been on the disabled list since June 11 with a sprained right elbow, made his first rehab appearance at Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday night and threw 17 pitches in one inning without incident. He'll return after the All-Star break.