04/23/2013 8:20 PM ET
As starters struggle, Cisnero strong in long relief
By Richard Dean / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- A concern for the Astros has been the lack of innings they are getting out of the starting pitching. Entering Tuesday's game, six Houston starters in the previous seven games failed to pitch beyond the fifth inning. Three starters did not make it out of the first.
"We just got to do a better job of attacking the strike zone and minimizing our pitches per at-bat," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "There's an underlying theme there. If you attack the strike zone, you make the hitters swing the bat.
"From a pitching standpoint, the more people you put on base, the more opportunity the other team has to score. The deeper you get into counts, the more advantage it goes to the hitter."
In Monday's 7-1 loss to Seattle, right-hander Jose Cisnero made his Major League debut in relief and pounded the strike zone. In 3 2/3 scoreless innings, Cisnero allowed two hits with a walk and a strikeout. Of Cisnero's 47 pitches, 33 were strikes.
"Look at his stat line," Porter said. "He looked composed and in control. He did a tremendous job."
Cisnero was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday. Last season, Cisnero went 13-7 with a 3.70 ERA (148 1/3 innings) and 148 strikeouts in 28 combined starts between Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi.
"He has an explosive fastball, a plus changeup and he has secondary stuff that he can control," Porter said. "When you're able to throw three pitches for a strike and you can get a hitter with a change of speed and then also have a fastball that has late movement, you have a chance to pitch at this level."
Maxwell on DL after getting hit by pitch in hand
HOUSTON -- Astros center fielder Justin Maxwell fractured his left hand on Tuesday after being hit by a pitch in the third inning by Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Maxwell's spot on the roster will be filled by outfielder Robbie Grossman, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Grossman will be in uniform for Wednesday afternoon's game against the Mariners.
"He's been outstanding," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Maxwell. "Defense, big hits. We'll need other guys to step up."
"It's tough," said Bud Norris, who got the win in Tuesday's 3-2 victory. "He's a staple in center field. We'll miss his bat in the lineup and his leadership."
Maxwell was hit with the bases loaded and two outs, making the score 3-1. Maxwell, who is batting .234 with six RBIs, was removed between the fourth and fifth innings and replaced by Brandon Barnes, who will most likely get most of the time in center field.
"I've had things happen before," Maxwell said. "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."
Grossman, a switch-hitter, was hitting .324 with 13 runs scored and a .452 on-base percentage in 19 games for Oklahoma City, going 9-for-22 in his past five games. Acquired from the Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez trade at the Trade Deadline last year, he hit .267 with a .371 on-base percentage in 36 games at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Known for offense, Laird showing worth on field
HOUSTON -- Playing third base in place of Matt Dominguez on Monday, Brandon Laird made a couple of fine plays defensively at the hot corner.
Laird, who is known more for his hitting, was called up by the Astros last Thursday when slumping Brett Wallace was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Laird did not make the Astros out of the spring despite batting .328 in Spring Training. In 12 games at Oklahoma City this year, Laird was batting .353 with 14 RBIs.
Astros manager Bo Porter has started Laird at first base twice since being called up.
"He said they want me to play first, third, and want me to work in the outfield," Laird said. "Hopefully, pretty soon I'll see a couple of games out there. That's four positions. Any way to get my bat in the lineup."
Laird came up in the Minor Leagues as a third baseman and feels comfortable at first base, too.
"I want to show them I can play any position," Laird said, adding, "I know my bat's going to be there."
Laird gives Porter options. Porter said Laird would be in the starting lineup Wednesday, either at first base or designated hitter.
"He can play both corner infield positions," Porter said. "He can DH, he's had success against left-handed pitching. And we're going to give him an opportunity to get in the lineup at different stages."
Dominguez OK after taking game off
HOUSTON -- Matt Dominguez was back in the Astros starting lineup Tuesday. Dominguez sat Monday as a precaution after being hit on the left elbow by a pitch from Cleveland's Chris Perez on Sunday.
After being hit by the pitch in the ninth inning, Dominguez was removed from the game. An X-ray Monday showed no fracture to the elbow.
"He was actually fine yesterday," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "But a guy getting hit in the elbow and you have an opportunity to give him a day of treatment and an extra day, we just took advantage of that. Matt will be fine moving forward."
Dominguez was back at his regular position at third base Tuesday. He batted eighth in the lineup.
• Former Astros lefty Xavier Cedeno was claimed off waivers by the Washington Nationals. The Astros had designated Cedeno for assignment on Thursday.
• Entering Tuesday's game, Rick Ankiel had nine hits and five home runs in 38 at-bats with a team-leading 11 RBIs.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.