05/19/10 10:20 PM ET
Norris expected to go on Sunday
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Norris was struck slightly above his right elbow and was dealing with some swelling Wednesday. He said he plans to be able to throw in the bullpen Thursday as normally scheduled.
"It started to swell up, but I wanted to keep pitching and try to help my team," said Norris, who finished with six runs allowed on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. "[Manager Brad Mills] gave me an opportunity, and he said, 'Are you OK?' And I said, 'I'm OK.' In retrospect, I'm glad I stayed out there and battled the best I could."
Norris said he was able to flex his right arm to brace himself for the ball, which wound up striking a meaty part of his arm and not the bone.
"I flexed at the last second," he said. "If it hit me square in the elbow, it would have been trouble, but I was pretty fortunate."
Offense keeps working toward solution
HOUSTON -- Astros hitting coach Sean Berry is understandably concerned about the way the club is hitting, but he vows to continue to work tirelessly to find a solution. The Astros entered Wednesday ranked last in the National League in average, runs, hits, total bases, homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
"Every day is brand new, and I always put a lot of pressure on myself to keep my focus and make sure I'm not missing anything," he said.
Berry said he leaves no stone unturned trying to find a solution, whether it's looking for physical solutions or mental solutions. He'll ask hitters who are struggling about their past experiences and what might have helped them get out of their funks.
"You try to cover everything," he said. "There's no way you point to one thing. It's a tough thing to do, to be a professional hitter at this level. It's difficult, and you're going to go through these things, I don't care how good they are. Hopefully they don't last every long. This one has lasted longer than we hoped but they'll get better."
Towles suffers broken thumb
HOUSTON -- J.R. Towles, the Astros' catcher on Opening Day, will be out four-to-six weeks after the club announced Wednesday the former No. 1 prospect broke his thumb during a headfirst slide at Double-A Corpus Christi on May 13.
Towles had his thumb examined Wednesday by Dr. Tom Melhoff in Houston, and it was determined Towles' ulnar collateral ligament was intact and surgery should not be needed. He will wear a cast for two weeks that will allow him to perform conditional drills and then spent two more weeks in a splint.
Towles began the season as the Astros' starting catcher, but watched his playing time dwindle while he hit .191 with one homer and 18 RBIs in 17 games. He was optioned to Corpus Christi on May 5 and played five games, hitting .143.
He was named the club's top prospect by Baseball America entering the 2008 season after hitting .324 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 61 games at Corpus Christi, .279 in 13 games at Triple-A Round Rock and .375 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 14 games with the Astros.
Matsui sits on bench for opener
HOUSTON -- Kaz Matsui began Wednesday in an 0-for-20 slump that caused his batting average to fall to .141, with Jeff Keppinger getting yet another start at second base against the Rockies in the series opener.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed with the way Kaz has performed this year," general manager Ed Wade said. "We had high expectations. I really felt the way he played in 2008 sort of typified what he had done in Colorado before we got him. Last year was a little bit of a slide, and this year he's really struggled. I feel for him because he's a very professional player and prepares very well, but this has been a tough go for him."
Matsui is in the final year of a three-year, $16.5 million deal he signed prior to the 2008 season to replace franchise icon Craig Biggio, who retired following 2007. He's hitting .135 (5-for-37) in May. Matsui has started 19 games at second, which trails Keppinger's 21 starts at the position.
Matsui, 34, hit .293 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games in his first season with the Astros, going on the disabled list three different times. He played in a career-high 132 games last year and hit .259 with nine homers and 46 RBIs.
HOUSTON -- The Astros entered Wednesday's game with 997 home runs at Minute Maid Park in the regular season and postseason combined.
As the club approaches 1,000 homers at the ballpark, ConocoPhillips has announced that it will award $1,000 worth of gas to the fan that catches the 1,000th home run ball. Since Minute Maid Park opened in 2000, the Conoco Pump located in Conoco Home Run Alley has kept a running count of each home run hit by the Astros in the regular season and postseason.
The fan that comes up with the ball will also have an opportunity to meet the Astros player who hit it. If the 1,000th home run ball is not retrieved by a fan, the Astros will randomly select a seat location to declare the winner.
There had been 843 regular season and postseason games played at Minute Maid Park prior to Wednesday, during which the Astros had posted a 471-372 (.559) won-loss record (8-6 in the postseason).
Lance Berkman has hit the most home runs at the venue with 148, four of which have come in the postseason, which is also tops among all players. Jeff Bagwell is second with 108 home runs, all coming in the regular season. Albert Pujols' 24 homers are tops among opposing players.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.