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05/30/07 10:00 PM ET

Notes: Struggles baffle veteran White

Reliever tries to figure out 11.12 ERA in last nine outings

HOUSTON -- Veteran reliever Rick White has been in the big leagues long enough to know that nothing can be gained by panicking over a slump, whether it's a pitcher who is struggling to record outs or a hitter who's making too many of them.

But White is a bit baffled by his recent string of appearances. Since returning from the disabled list on May 11, the right-hander has an inflated 11.12 ERA over nine appearances, having yielded 14 earned runs on 21 hits. That's in stark contrast to his performance in April, during which he allowed two earned runs over eight appearances for a 1.54 ERA.

After missing more than two weeks with an oblique strain, has he simply been rusty?

"I'm not one to make excuses, but I really have no idea what's going on right now," White said. "The only comparison I can make to it is I'm stuck in a big pile of unlucky dog doo, rolling down a hill, and I'm waiting to slam into something, so I can stop."

The most frustrating part is that White feels good, better than he did before he got hurt. In April, he was still getting over a groin strain he suffered during Spring Training. Then, he strained his side. Now that both ailments are behind him, White figured he'd have better results. That clearly hasn't happened.

"Obviously, mechanically, there's something wrong," White said. "I brought in some video to look at and I have no luck right now. I had some luck a little bit earlier in the season. You make a pitch down the middle and the guy makes an out. Right now, anything that's over the plate, anything that touches the plate, is getting hit."

But is he panicked? Nah.

"It's one of those stretches that everybody goes through over the course of a year, whether you're a hitter or position player," White said. "I'm not worried about it. It happens all the time."

Feeling blue: Brandon Backe has no timetable for when he may be cleared to throw another simulated game and until further notice, he's still in "setback" mode.

Backe threw off the mound Tuesday at about 70 percent strength. But he's still experiencing soreness in his elbow, an issue he's been dealing with for nearly three weeks.

His health issues, coupled with the team's poor record, has left the right-hander a bit down in the dumps.

"It's the whole atmosphere," Backe said. "Me feeling bad, the team not doing well. It just stinks. The only time I can get my mind off of it is before the game, when I'm working out and just not really thinking about it. Then the game starts, and I start watching us lose and my elbow's feeling bad at the same time.

"It feels like every time we lose, as soon as the game's over, my elbow hurts worse. It stinks. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of watching us play bad and I'm tired of my elbow not feeling good."

The day after: One day after making his first start in nearly two months, Jason Jennings was understandably sore, but in good spirits.

The right-hander, sidelined since April 9 with tendinitis in his right elbow, threw 79 pitches over five scoreless innings against the Reds on Tuesday.

"I'm obviously sore," Jennings said. "It just takes a couple days to really see how you feel. You're always going to be sore. I'm just trying to flush out some of the soreness today. I'll throw a bullpen [Friday] and should be ready to go on Sunday [against the Cardinals]."

A-listers: Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti was a special guest of the Astros prior to Wednesday's game with the Reds. But it was his wife, actress Ashley Judd, who "garner"-ed the most attention.

Manager Phil Garner was one of dozens of uniformed personnel from both teams -- not to mention the grounds crew, bat boys and security guards -- who were a tad bit excited to meet Judd, who has starred in such movies as "Double Jeopardy" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," among others.

Judd hung out with Garner behind the cage while the Astros finished batting practice. She and Franchitti also mingled with players from both teams.

Franchitti, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, admitted he isn't an avid baseball observer, but he seemed to be enjoying himself nonetheless, especially when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

"After the whole 500 thing, they asked me to come down and throw the first pitch, and I said I'd never thrown a baseball before," Franchitti said. "But I said OK, I'd try anything once.

"I really haven't watched much baseball. I've never played it. But Ken Griffey Jr. is obviously so huge. It's a different sport, so I thought I'd come out and see how the guys do, and hopefully nobody's watching how this first pitch goes."

Baby boom: Astros chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, became grandparents for a third time on Tuesday. Their son, Drayton III and his wife, Amy, welcomed their second child. Benjamin Brooks McLane was born Tuesday morning in Temple, Texas, and weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

Additionally, Astros vice president of Market Development Rosi Hernandez and her husband, Jorge, welcomed their first child on Tuesday. Daughter Andrea ("Andi") weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

Coming up: The Astros and Reds wrap up their three-game series Thursday, beginning at 7:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Woody Williams (1-7, 5.65) will face Bronson Arroyo (2-5, 4.01).

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.