4/5/2014 1:55 A.M. ET
Qualls ready to provide veteran leadership in 'pen
By Gene Duffey / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Chad Qualls, a reliever from the glory years of the Houston Astros in the mid-2000s, returned to the Astros this season to anchor the bullpen. Qualls signed with Houston as a free agent after spending last season with the Miami Marlins.
"It's pretty much the same," Qualls said of the Astros' clubhouse. He hadn't pitched for Houston since 2007. "They've done a little renovation in here. The lockers are different. For the most part it's the same. The food room is better."
Qualls said the biggest change playing for Houston is the Astros being in the American League. The Astros changed leagues last season.
Qualls worked as a setup man for closer Brad Lidge in 2005, when the Astros reached their only World Series. He went 6-4 that season with a 3.28 ERA.
"It's kind of cool," Qualls said of being an Astro again. "It brings back good memories. Houston drafted me out of college and called me up to give me my first chance in the Major Leagues. It's all good memories."
Qualls now occupies the locker of former Astros star Craig Biggio. He said he wasn't aware of that until he saw Biggio in the clubhouse a couple of days ago. "He said, 'You're in my locker,' " Qualls said Biggio told him. "I told him I'd take good care of it."
The struggles by the bullpen were a major part of Houston's league-worst 51-111 record last season.
"Honestly, I had no idea," Qualls said. "I wasn't keeping track. They were in the American League and I was in the National. I knew they weren't winning many games, but I didn't know why."
The Astros brought in Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain to strengthen this year's relief pitching.
The bullpen helped Houston beat the New York Yankees in two out of three games to open the season.
"We have good arms," Qualls said of the Houston 'pen. "We can definitely have a good year with that group of guys down there. The camaraderie is good. It's about picking each other up. It would be nice to bring that winning attitude back to Houston."
Qualls, 35, will need to be a leader of the Astros bullpen.
"It's something I've done in the past, being the older guy," he said. "I embrace that role and take pride in it."
Fowler taken to hospital with stomach virus
HOUSTON -- Dexter Fowler, the Astros' hottest hitter, missed Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with a stomach virus and is doubtful for Saturday.
Fowler was taken to a Houston hospital Friday evening. Manager Bo Porter said after the 11-1 loss to the Angels that there was no update on Fowler, but planned to visit him on his way home from the ballpark.
Fowler hit .500 in Houston's first three games against the New York Yankees. Batting leadoff, Fowler hit two doubles, a triple and a home run and scored five runs.
Alex Presley, who started the last two games in right field for the Astros, replaced Fowler in center field and hit in Fowler's leadoff spot in the Houston lineup. He went 1-for-5 with a single and three strikeouts in Friday's loss.
"He's got a stomach bug," Porter said of Fowler. "I don't know if it was something he ate. It's not cooperating with his body. Obviously he played well these first three games."
Houston acquired Fowler in the offseason in a trade with the Colorado Rockies. The Astros picked up Presley in a trade with the Pirates near the end of last season.
Presley hit .283 last year in 28 games for Minnesota and .264 in 29 games for Pittsburgh.
"I'm used to it," Presley said of leading off. "It's not odd for me. I spent the majority of my big league career hitting leadoff. I did it last spring."
Presley didn't know he was going to start in center until he arrived at Minute Maid Park Friday afternoon.
"We all need to get sick if that's the case," Presley said of Fowler's sizzling start. "You have to be ready for any situation when you come in."
Presley said he felt comfortable right away at Minute Maid Park.
"I have a little experience here as a visiting player," Presley said. "You can see the ball really well." Porter expressed confidence in Presley.
"He's swung the bat well, he's played defense, he's done a good job so far," Porter said. "That's part of the reason we went out and acquired him, so we'd have another guy who had a lot of experience playing center field."
Presley grew up in Monroe, La., and will have some family in town over the weekend to see him in his new uniform.
Castro sits, day to day with right foot injury
HOUSTON -- Astros catcher Jason Castro sat out Friday night's game vs. the Angels after being hit in the right foot by a pitch from New York Yankees starter Ivan Nova in the third inning of Thursday's game. Castro was removed from the game after grounding into a double play in the fifth inning.
He wore a boot on his foot in the clubhouse following Thursday's game.
"That was just precautionary last night, just to let it calm down a little bit," Castro said before Friday's game. "It's been better today. Been getting treatment. Once the swelling gets out of there, I should be ready to go. We'll see how it responds to the treatment, but I'm pretty optimistic."
Castro said he could play again as soon as Saturday.
"It's about as day-to-day as you can get," Castro said. "If I wake up [Saturday] and it's feeling good, I could get other there tomorrow."
Carlos Corporan started at catcher for the Astros Friday night with outfielder-first baseman Marc Krauss the emergency catcher. Krauss said he had not caught in a regular game since his senior year of high school in Deshler, Ohio.
"It's been a while," Krauss said. "I caught for seven years, from Little League all the way through high school."
Krauss said he had offers from a couple Mid-American schools to play catcher in college. Instead, he went to Miami of Ohio where he played outfield and first base.
"I've been doing drills in Spring Training," Krauss said of practicing as a catcher. "We'd get out early with the catchers, catch balls from the machine, work on some of the fundamentals."
Krauss said he enjoyed working out behind the plate again.
"I missed it," he said. "I had fun catching. You're always in the game. It's exciting, but it's a lot of hard work. I don't miss the hard work."
And what if Krauss had to put on the gear Friday night?
"I'd definitely be nervous," he said. "If you don't do your job, you'd let the team down. But I would also be excited. I spent a long time back there. I hope it doesn't get to that point."
Castro thought Krauss could do the job, if necessary.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Castro said of watching Krauss work out behind the plate in spring.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.