05/26/12 9:30 PM ET
Lengthy starts, off-days help bullpen stay fresh
By AJ Cassavell / MLB.com
But for two reasons, the Astros manager has been able to mix and match his arms late in games. He did so Friday by using five pitchers in one inning against the Dodgers in preserving a 3-1 victory.
First, Astros starters have lasted at least five innings in 38 consecutive games, the longest stretch in baseball this season. That means without any mop-up roles available, everyone is preserved late in games.
Second, he has the luxury of three days off in the span of 12 days, time for those arms to recover.
"After a day off, you make sure everybody's set," Mills said. "It's kind of nice because we're in a streak now where we have Thursday off and we have Tuesday off, and then we have next Monday off. The guys will be getting those days off, and that helps spread everything out a little bit."
Mills said he doesn't typically look at the coming off-days when determining which pitcher to use. Instead, he said he only looks back to see which arms have the potential for use.
"Not necessarily looking forward, but more just going back, who are the fresh arms?" Mills said. "Everybody was available because of the off-day on Thursday."
The Astros may have the three days off in a short span, but they also must deal with a doubleheader on Monday. Mills said the club will announce its pitching plans for the pair of games in Colorado on Monday.
Schafer returns to lineup from toe injury
LOS ANGELES -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer is eager to lace up his cleats again after missing a couple games because of a toe injury -- even if the cleats on his feet feel like what he called "bozo shoes."
After fouling a ball off his right big toe earlier in the week, the toe became infected and swollen, meaning Schafer needed a procedure to remove part of the nail.
The pain and swelling have died down, Schafer said before Saturday's game in Los Angeles, where he'll bat first for Houston. But he'll have to wear shoes that are a size larger than usual to accommodate some swelling and a substantial wrap on the toe.
"It doesn't feel real comfortable to run because it kind of feels like I have bozo shoes on," Schafer said. "But the bigger shoes give me more room just because my toe is so swollen."
Schafer, who is hitting .248 with 13 stolen bases, said he doesn't feel pain while running -- only while stopping. When he caught fly balls in the outfield, he didn't feel the injury tracking down balls or catching them. It only surfaced when he put the brakes on afterward.
That said, Schafer can't re-aggravate the toe by running or stopping, and that is the biggest key in his return Saturday -- a prospect that didn't seem so likely on Friday.
"If I foul a ball off my toe, obviously it's not going to feel very good, but it can't get any worse just by going out there and playing," Schafer said. "It feels good enough that I can go out there and run and do enough to be productive."
Schafer talked with manager Brad Mills after Friday's game, a 3-1 Astros victory, and said he thought he'd be healthy enough to play Saturday.
Mills responded by saying, "You're in there unless you drop a suitcase on it or kick the bed."
When Schafer showed up in the visitors clubhouse Saturday afternoon and gave Mills a thumbs-up, that was enough to assure Schafer's return to the lineup.
Astros acquire Minor League catcher Morales
LOS ANGELES -- In a move born from the Marlins' need for organizational outfield depth, the Astros traded Justin Ruggiano to Miami on Saturday in exchange for young catcher Jobduan Morales.
The 20-year-old Morales spent the 2011 season playing rookie ball in the New York-Penn League for Jamestown, where he hit .272 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 52 games. He will report to Houston's extended spring training before being assigned.
Morales was drafted by the Marlins in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Ruggiano, 30, was hitting .325 this season with five homers and 29 RBIs in 39 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 200 career big league at-bats, all coming with Tampa Bay, Ruggiano hit .226 with six homers.
Ruggiano spent the entire spring with the big league club before he was assigned to Triple-A following Spring Training.
AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.