05/14/2013 7:18 PM ET
Clemens impressing Astros in long-relief role
By Anthony Odoardi / Special to MLB.com
DETROIT -- Paul Clemens had spent the majority of his Minor League career preparing to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues. However, it's in the bullpen that the right-hander is beginning to make a name for himself.
Clemens entered a 7-2 game against Detroit on Monday night in the sixth inning and proceeded to fire three hitless innings, issuing only one walk while striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in order.
"Clemens did a great job," manager Bo Porter said after the Astros' loss. "He did a great job attacking the strike zone and he had some really good put-away pitches against a great lineup."
The 25-year-old got Hunter and Cabrera swinging at 78-mph curveballs before forcing a third straight whiff from Fielder on a 94-mph heater to lead off the eighth inning. What made it more impressive was that Clemens came in without a chance to warm up, as starter Bud Norris exited with lower back spasms prior to the sixth.
"I just wanted to pick [Bud] up and get my job done," Clemens said. "Doesn't matter when they bring you in, gotta get your job done. No excuses."
Aside from yielding five runs in six innings during his Major League debut in Seattle -- which came on April 8 after Josh Fields went down with an injury -- Clemens has consistently gotten the job done. He's been one of the team's best arms, posting a 2.86 ERA in 10 appearances and 22 innings since that first outing.
When the Astros acquired Clemens in 2011 from the Braves as part of a five-player deal for Michael Bourn, the hope was the right-hander would turn into this type of pitcher. The club understood he had the powerful stuff to be successful.
As far as Clemens' future role, the verdict is still out. He has primarily been used as a long reliever this season, but general manager Jeff Luhnow said earlier this season no decision has been definitively made.
In Clemens' 129 appearances in the Minors, 82 of them came in a starting role, and he hadn't entered a game in relief since 2010.
Altuve placed on bereavement list; Elmore recalled
DETROIT -- Jose Altuve had already been questionable for Tuesday's game against the Tigers with a partially dislocated right jaw suffered Monday. But now it's certain the Astros' second baseman won't play for the rest of the series, as he was placed on the bereavement list.
The move was announced Tuesday morning before the Astros faced the Tigers in the second game of a three-game set at Comerica Park. The team recalled infielder Jake Elmore from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take his place.
The news came one night after Altuve crashed into Jimmy Paredes trying to field a shallow fly ball in the second inning. Altuve, however, said after the game he would return to the lineup and finish out the series.
"We'll see tomorrow if I'm going to play," said Altuve following Monday's 7-2 loss. "But I have a feeling I'm going to feel really good tomorrow."
The death of Altuve's grandmother, however, prevented him from making it back. Manager Bo Porter said Altuve flew out to Houston on Tuesday and will return home to Venezuela to be with his family.
Players must stay on the bereavement list for a minimum of three days. They are allotted a maximum of seven days away from the team, but Porter said he expects Altuve to be back by Saturday -- the second game of a weekend series in Pittsburgh.
"It's tough any time you lose a loved one, and especially someone as near and dear to you as his grandmother was to him," Porter said. "So our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose and the rest of his family.
"We'll get him there [to Venezuela] early [Wednesday] morning and he'll be with his family until Friday, and he'll be back in the lineup on Saturday."
In the meantime, Porter said Elmore will get all the reps at second. The 25-year-old was batting .300 for the RedHawks in 36 games. He played mostly second base, but he can also play shortstop and third. He hit .191 in 30 games with the D-backs last season.
Elmore made his Astros debut Tuesday, playing second and batting in the two-hole.
"When you come to the ballpark, you always want to play, so yeah, it's exciting and it shows some confidence they have in me," Elmore said. "So I'm looking forward to proving them right.
"I'll do my best while I'm here, try to open some eyes, and when Altuve gets back we'll go from there."
Norris day to day, status for next start uncertain
DETROIT -- Astros starter Bud Norris remained sore on Tuesday after tweaking his back throwing warmup pitches prior to the sixth inning and exiting Monday night's game against the Tigers.
"It's pretty sore still," he said. "But [the trainers] said the next couple of days it will be painful."
As it stands, it's still uncertain if Norris, who was officially diagnosed with lower back spasms, will make his next scheduled start, which would likely come Sunday in the finale of a three-game series against Pittsburgh.
Norris classified his availability as "to be determined," but he also hopes to benefit from Thursday's off-day, meaning he will get five days' rest instead of the usual four before taking the hill.
Manager Bo Porter said it's a day-to-day injury, and the right-hander will continue to undergo treatment over the next few days.
"Whenever you're talking about back spasms, it's something that the next day is probably going to be worse than it was when it first happened," Porter said. "So he'll continue to get treatment, and hopefully the prognosis gets better each and every day."
Norris entered Monday with a 3.40 ERA, but after getting roughed up for seven runs in five innings, it rose to 4.32.
Porter pushes Bedard's next start back a day
DETROIT -- Manager Bo Porter said Erik Bedard, who returned to the rotation after a brief stint in the bullpen with five innings of two-run ball against Texas on Saturday, will have his next start pushed back a day.
It's not performance-based as much as it is Porter wanting to capitalize on an opportunity to split his lefties up going forward, and the off-day on Thursday presents that.
The other left-handed starter, Dallas Keuchel, will pitch Wednesday's series finale in Detroit. Jordan Lyles will remain in the rotation, moving up a day to throw the series opener on Friday in Pittsburgh. Bedard will then take the hill Saturday, with Bud Norris hopefully feeling healthy enough to finish off the three-game set.
The series will mark the Astros' first in a National League ballpark since switching over from the NL Central to the American League West this season. It also provides a unique situation where the pitchers have to bat, which could factor into Norris' availability.
• Porter named Robbie Grossman, J.D. Martinez and Paredes his three starting outfielders prior to Monday's game, stating he wanted to give them consistent playing time to determine if they're capable of being everyday players. The trio responded with five of the team's seven hits. They were all back in the lineup again Tuesday.
• The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday afternoon that the Astros Wives Organization canceled its annual Astros Wives Gala to benefit the Houston Area Women's Center. The event had run for 23 straight years, beginning in 1990. It is not affiliated with the Houston Astros, but was usually held at Minute Maid Park.
Anthony Odoardi is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.