05/02/08 8:54 PM ET
Astros able to post Opening Day lineup
Wigginton's return gives Houston order it envisioned in spring
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
With the activation of third baseman Ty Wigginton from the disabled list Friday, Astros manager Cecil Cooper was at last able to fill out his lineup card the way he envisioned it early this spring, before second baseman Kazuo Matsui went on the disabled list in March and before Wigginton was lost on April 12 because of a fractured thumb.
Since then, Cooper has used 19 different lineups and 21 batting orders, trying to find one that works consistently. The Astros entered Friday's game with 131 runs, 13th most in baseball and sixth best in the National League.
With Wigginton back hitting seventh in the batting order, Matsui back in his familiar No. 2 spot and Michael Bourn in the leadoff spot, the Astros have a chance to get a look at what their starting lineup can do for the long haul with all eight cylinders functioning.
Brad Ausmus started at catcher Friday night, with Opening Day starter Roy Oswalt on the mound, but otherwise the lineup is the one the Astros are expected to use on a regular basis.
"It's a good feeling that I've got them all, got them all healthy," Cooper said. "Now we've just got to start clicking."
Wigginton's return allows Cooper to use Geoff Blum and Mark Loretta off the bench, which strengthens a Houston reserve corps that is hitting just .113 (6-for-53), including .086 (3-for-35) with no extra-base hits and just one RBI by Astros pinch-hitters.
"The other two guys who have been kind of platooning for us at third base have done a real terrific job for us; that's why we signed them," Cooper said. "But Ty's our regular third baseman, he brings speed and power and solid defense, so it's good to have him back. I'm sure it will take him a few days to get his legs back under him."
Wigginton went 1-for-9 with a triple, two walks and one RBI in three games on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Round Rock from April 28-30, after hitting .250 (5-for-20) with one home run and two RBIs in six Major League games last month.
"It's been a long time; I'm just excited to finally be able to put back on the uniform and go and try to help my teammates win ballgames," Wigginton said. "It feels good. I felt like I passed the tests I needed to pass down there and I'm ready to go forward."
Cooper decided to go back to Bourn at leadoff and move Matsui to No. 2 after briefly experimenting with Matsui in the top spot.
"Kaz was not the same player when I moved him to the leadoff spot as he had been hitting second," Cooper said.
Matsui batted .192 (5-for-26) batting first, compared to .348 (8-for-23) when he started in the second spot in the lineup. Matsui's on-base percentage batting second this season is 195 points higher than his OBP batting leadoff.
With Wigginton joining Matsui, Bourn, Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Ausmus/J.R. Towles and Hunter Pence, the cast is all here. The .243 team batting average should start to rise, or so Cooper and the Astros are hoping.
"I think we are underacheiving," Cooper said. "We haven't hit the way we are capable of, and it's not just one person."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.