8/14/2013 2:40 A.M. ET
With Wright gone, Castro Astros' elder statesman
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Jason Castro isn't exactly what you would call a grizzled veteran, but when it comes to the young Astros, the All-Star catcher is rather long in the tooth.
With relief pitcher Wesley Wright being claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, Castro is the team's longest-tenured player. He made his Major League debut on June 22, 2010, for the Astros and is entrenched as a starter after missing all of the 2011 season following knee surgery.
When he was called up, the Astros were still somewhat of a veteran team that included Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt. Berkman and Oswalt were traded about a month later as the Astros' rebuilding process hit full gear.
"It's kind of weird," Castro said. "It's not something I ever really anticipated. But it's nice to have been here as long as I have been, and I'm grateful for the opportunities and everything. I think where we're headed is finally starting to take shape now that guys are reaching a point they're to be up here.
"Even some of the guys down in the Minor Leagues are real close. You kind of see things coming together, and having been through the deciding point when it started and now when it's actually starting as far as the onward and upward approach now, I think it's been a good ride, and I'm happy with what we're shaping into."
No. 1 Draft pick Appel to make two more starts
OAKLAND -- Right-hander Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft and the team's No. 4 prospect and No. 28 overall prospect, will likely make two more starts at Class A Quad Cities and then be shut down for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Tuesday.
Appel, who was roughed up in his last outing, has thrown 134 1/3 innings this year when you combine his senior season at Stanford with his Minor League workload. He's scheduled to throw again on Monday for Quad Cities at home. The Astros had previously left open the idea of promoting Appel to Double-A Corpus Christi.
"He didn't say this, but he's probably getting fatigued with the workload this year and all the intensity of being the first pick of the Draft and the expectations," Luhnow said.
Appel is 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in eight starts at Quad Cities after starting two games at short-season Tri-City shortly after being drafted. Luhnow plans to be in Davenport, Iowa, on Monday when Appel makes his next start as part of his August tour of the team's Minor League affiliates.
Luhnow will watch two games at Class A Lancaster and also make stops at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Tri-City and Rookie League Greeneville. He plans to visit Double-A Corpus Christi at some point during the playoffs.
"It's the time of year where the staff has been with the players for most of the year and they have a really good feel for where those players should play next year," Luhnow said. "I can talk to them about whether they'll play winter ball or which ones may or may not go to the Arizona Fall League. There's a lot of fall planning that goes on around this time. We have as much information as we're going to have about these players."
Back in the bigs, Humber will pitch out of 'pen
OAKLAND -- Veteran right-hander Philip Humber rejoined the Astros on Tuesday for the first time since he was designated for assignment on May 12. Humber began the year in Houston's rotation and went 0-7 with an 8.82 ERA in seven starts.
Humber will pitch out of the bullpen, a role he was serving at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last seven appearances for the RedHawks.
"He's thrown late innings out of the bullpen at Oklahoma City and he can be used in that situation, and he can be brought into the game in a short situation, as well," manager Bo Porter said.
Humber didn't have much to say about his return to the Major Leagues because he has been battling laryngitis for the last month. He whispered to reporters Tuesday that he was feeling fine, but was just having trouble speaking.
"It's not very fun," Humber said. "I'm not sick or anything, but I lost my voice and it hasn't come back."
Humber is taking the roster spot of left-hander Wesley Wright, who was claimed off of waivers by the Rays on Monday.
Altuve, Castro return to Astros' lineup
OAKLAND -- All-Star catcher Jason Castro and second baseman Jose Altuve both returned to the lineup Tuesday for the series opener against the A's. Castro missed the two previous games with a bruised hip suffered in a plate collision on Saturday, and Altuve has been dealing with a sore left quadriceps.
Castro, who entered Tuesday's game on a 10-game hitting streak, said the extra day of rest helped him immensely.
"I'm feeling a lot better," Castro said. "The couple of off-days did the trick. The first day after was pretty sore to really do anything, so that's why I took the back-to-back days off. It felt better [Monday], but today it feels even better. I should be back to normal now."
Meanwhile, Altuve said his quad is close to 100 percent, but manager Bo Porter said he's talked with the base coaches to make sure Altuve takes it easy on the basepaths. He missed two games last week with the same issue.
"We're at the point where he's not going to be 100 percent," Porter said. "I've discussed with him and the bases coaches have talked to him that they are going to have to be some precautions taken, because he doesn't have the normal burst and normal speed when he's 100 percent healthy."
• The Astros optioned right-hander Jorge De Leon to Triple-A Oklahoma City following Tuesday's game and recalled shortstop Marwin Gonzalez from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The move gives the Astros an extra infielder while second baseman Jose Altuve nurses a sore left quadriceps.