02/23/08 6:05 PM ET
Notes: Pence progressing quickly
Outfielder participates in activities with teammates Saturday
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Pence was instructed to stand in the batter's box, but not swing. He was, however, permitted to hit when the lighter-throwing coaches were the batting practice pitchers.
While facing Roy Oswalt, Pence found himself getting a little antsy.
"For some reason, I really want to swing," he said with a grin.
"He said, 'I saw a lot of strikes today but that was because they knew I wasn't swinging,'" manager Cecil Cooper recalled. "He looked like he's rebounding pretty quickly."
Pence, who has made tremendous progress since suffering lacerations on his hands and knees after falling through a sliding glass door late on Monday night, expects to hit against Astros pitchers on Sunday. He is feeling few lingering effects from the accident, although he has noticed a bit of soreness in his right leg.
"The only thing I noticed was because I favored the left leg, the right leg got a little sore from picking up some slack," he said. "It feels fine now -- I just have to stretch it a little more."
Oswalt returns: Oswalt returned to the Astros on Saturday, as promised, one day after attending the funeral of his maternal grandfather, Edward Threet.
Oswalt left the team on Wednesday to travel to Simpson, Miss., upon learning of his grandfather's death. His mother, Jean, said she would understand if Oswalt's schedule prevented him from attending the funeral, but the right-hander did not want to miss it.
"At first she was like, 'If you can't get back, it's fine,' but I was going to get back anyway, if it was possible," Oswalt said. "It was good. Everything turned out nice."
Knuckler? While throwing to Astros hitters on Saturday, Oswalt mixed in a surprise pitch -- a knuckleball, which was "nasty" enough to make those watching this session chuckle.
Oswalt said he may use the pitch this season. Why? "Age," he responded.
"I threw it in college," the 30-year-old righty said. "Then I quit when I was drafted. I just picked it up when I was in college."
Bourn signs: The Astros announced on Saturday that they signed center fielder Michael Bourn to a one-year contract with the Major League value of $396,000.
Intrasquad games: The Grapefruit League season begins on Thursday, and as a warmup, the Astros will play intrasquad games on Monday and Tuesday on the main field at Osceola County Stadium.
The teams will be managed by two of the most senior members of the Astros coaching staff -- Julio Linares, overseer of Domincan Scouting and Development and a member of the organization's coaching staff since 1973, and bench coach Jackie Moore, who not long ago celebrated his 50th year in baseball.
"We're trying to pick names for the teams," Cooper quipped. "We were kidding that we are going to call one AARP and the other one Social Security."
Take me out to the... Major League Baseball Productions visited the Astros' complex to tape segments for their upcoming shows, and one of the exercises involved select Astros figures singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Jose Cruz apparently got through the song without a hitch. The same could not be said for Cooper.
"I got to the first line and I couldn't remember the rest," he said. "I just got stuck. I said, 'Give me some peanuts...' and, uh... I couldn't remember the rest. And I've heard that song a million times."
FanFest schedule: The annual Astros FanFest will take place on Saturday, March 29, beginning at 9 a.m. CT. The event will be held in conjunction with the team's exhibition game against the Tigers, which begins at 1:05 p.m.
A ticket to the exhibition game also grants permission to FanFest.
Fans will have the opportunity to obtain autographs from players for a small fee, and fans can also take a free photograph with their favorite players, or get a souvenir photo for $10. Several Astros alumni will also be on hand to sign autographs.
A full rundown of FanFest events can be viewed at here.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.