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03/26/11 2:40 PM ET

Fractured bone to sideline Barmes

Shortstop will miss at least a month due to hand injury

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Just when the Astros were getting closer to setting their 25-man roster, an injury to Clint Barmes has thrown the job of starting shortstop up for grabs.

Barmes will be out for four to six weeks after an X-ray performed Saturday morning showed a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand, an injury suffered when he was struck by a pitch Friday against the Yankees. He had the hand immobilized and will be examined in Houston by team physician Dr. Tom Mehlhoff in the next few days.

The Astros will begin the season with two of their projected eight position starters on the disabled list. Catcher Jason Castro tore his anterior cruciate ligament earlier in the spring and is expected to miss the entire season.

"You start feeling sorry for yourself and all you have to do is look at what's happening at other people's camps," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "That's why you try to build as much depth as you can, and that's why every general manager in the game starts to hold their breath the last 10 days of Spring Training, and hope things like this don't occur."

The injury throws the role of starting shortstop into a free-for-all, with Matt Downs, Angel Sanchez, Anderson Hernandez and Oswaldo Navarro in the hunt to start on Opening Day. The Astros also brought Tommy Manzella -- last year's Opening Day starter -- back from Minor League camp, about 48 hours after he was optioned out.

"There's good depth," Wade said. "It doesn't mean we're not going to be mindful of at least the potential to go out there and do something different. In the meantime, everybody who's in camp is still part of the competition, and hopefully our issues can be solved internally. We'll continue to look outside and see if there are chances to do something different."

Barmes, whom the Astros acquired in a November trade to be their starting shortstop, was one of the team's two key offseason additions, along with second baseman Bill Hall. They were acquired in an effort to add some pop to a lineup that ranked last in the league in home runs last year.

Barmes, 32, hit.235 with eight homers and 50 RBIs in 133 games last year for Colorado, and is two years removed from hitting 23 homers for the Rockies. He broke the same bone in his hand in Double-A in 2002 and missed the final three weeks of the season.

"It's definitely pretty frustrating to hear I'm going to have to miss time," Barmes said. "After [Friday] night, talking to the doctor and going through some of the tests he was giving me, it looked very promising. There was a small fracture in the X-ray, and they're saying it needs time to heal before we push it and try to get back to doing baseball activities.

"I'm hoping and am going to be trying to get back as soon as possible, but I can only push it as much as they'll let me."

Wade wouldn't divulge a favorite to win the starting job, but conventional wisdom suggests Sanchez has a good chance. He started 57 games at shortstop last year after being acquired by the Astros on July 1, about a week after Manzella broke his finger and wound up missing more than six weeks. Sanchez hit .280 with 25 RBIs in 250 at-bats.

"You've got to look at Sanchez and the job he did last year," manager Brad Mills said.

Downs has had a strong spring camp and seemed to have a good chance of making the team in a reserve role. He's appeared in 57 Major League games over two seasons with the Astros and Giants, but has played only two career Major League games at shortstop.

"We've got a lot of guys that play infield that are still in camp, and I'm sure there's somebody who can step in and fill that role until Barmes gets back," Downs said. "Hopefully it won't be the six weeks they're talking about."

Hernandez, a switch-hitter, is a veteran of 240 Major League games and has extensive experience at shortstop, as well as second base. Navarro, who like Hernandez is a non-roster player, has appeared in 18 Major League games, all at shortstop, but he hasn't played the position this spring.

Manzella is perhaps the best defensive player from the group of infielders being considered for the shortstop job, and he had made strides at the plate this spring. But Wade said his return doesn't mean he's definitely made the club.

"We're not prepared to say anything like that," Wade said. "He'll come back over and fall back into the equation, and we'll see where we go from there."

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