4/17/2014 8:20 P.M. ET
Porter, Qualls and Keuchel getting over flu-like bug
By Chris Abshire / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter is never one to speak softly, but something finally managed to lower his voice a bit during the last several days.
A "flu-like" bug has spread through the Astros' clubhouse, reaching everyone from Porter to the trainers to the Houston pitching staff.
Porter said he started to feel the effects after Saturday's win against the Rangers in Arlington, but the scratchy throat and clogged sinuses didn't truly become a problem until Monday.
"My throat felt like it was on fire, so I couldn't even cough or hack up because it hurt so much," Porter said. "I couldn't have coached if we had a game on Monday. I couldn't even make it out of bed."
The bug, which Porter claims started amongst the training staff reached the players this week, too. Reliever Chad Qualls couldn't pitch in the first two games against the Royals as he dealt with the sickness.
Starter Dallas Keuchel came down with it, too, but he managed to make his scheduled start Wednesday, going six innings and allowing two runs while leaving the game with a lead.
"That's why it was so impressive what [Keuchel] gave us last night," Porter said. "He wasn't feeling too hot and just battled hard."
By Thursday, Porter said he could breathe a little and even felt spry enough to toss batting practice. After Porter sauntered off the diamond, Houston bench coach Dave Trembley declared, "Bo, you're a regular Lazarus, back from the dead!"
Astros option Chapman, call up Valdes
HOUSTON -- The Astros' bullpen was already short on southpaws before Kevin Chapman's recent struggles.
So they simply traded out Chapman for another lefty.
Houston purchased veteran left-hander Raul Valdes' contract from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned Chapman to the RedHawks on Thursday.
Chapman had struggled with command in 3 2/3 innings of five-run work this season, including seven walks. He walked the only batter he faced in Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Royals, part of Kansas City's two-run seventh inning that tied the game and led to extra innings.
"It's really hard when you talk about pitching out of a bullpen, because you have to throw strikes all the time," said manager Bo Porter. "You're usually coming into a situation with men on the base, the last thing you can have is a free pass. There's no defense for it.
"At least if the guy throws strikes and forces a guy to swing the bat, we have an opportunity to defend. That's the message we delivered to Chapman after the game. We told him he has the stuff to pitch here, but you have to command it."
Valdes is playing in the big leagues for his fifth team, after previous stints with the Cardinals, Mets, Phillies and Yankees produced a 4.94 ERA and a 7-7 record.
He'd already earned a pair of saves for Oklahoma City, tallied a win in Wednesday's game and went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five-plus innings of Spring Training with the Astros.
"He's a veteran guy who's been in this role before," Porter said. "At this juncture, we need the ball put in play or a strikeout from our bullpen. [Valdes] is more experienced in the role, and probably gives us a little bit more as far as usage and innings goes."
Valdes' plane didn't even arrive in Houston until 4:15 p.m. CT, meaning he didn't reach the ballpark until about 90 minutes prior to Thursday night's game against Kansas City. Porter said he would still be available to pitch against the Royals.
Springer settling in to life in the Major Leagues
HOUSTON -- In one respect, George Springer's whirlwind first day in the Major Leagues was no different than any other call-up's.
But given the attention the slugging outfielder gained while raking in the Minors, how he's settling in to life in the Major Leagues after a hectic 36 hours is a top priority for the Astros.
"It's been a big couple of days, with traveling and a new ballpark and all of that," Springer said. "I'm excited, because now I can just go about my business, with an understanding for how things go. It's all about my performance now."
Manager Bo Porter said Springer's 1-for-5 outing on Wednesday included some major positives, such as how aggressive the righty was while still maintaining enough patience to draw a walk.
"He doesn't get cheated at the plate," Porter said. "I was glad when he got that first hit out of the way, so we don't have a 'George Springer Watch' on."
Springer took the ball from that first single and gave it to his parents, who were both in attendance for the final two games of the Royals series.
With the salutations out of the way, Springer just wants to get back to a baseball player's preferred schedule -- the routine.
He certainly was out of his element after getting called up, barely sleeping the night before his first game and then quickly falling asleep after the contest.
"I was finally able to get some good sleep last night," Springer said. "I think I slept about 20 minutes the night before. I think I fell asleep in about five seconds [last night] and slept until noon today."
The extra rest seemed to help Springer in batting practice, as he launched several opposite-field home runs and deposited another in the bushes beyond Minute Maid Park's center-field wall for a massive 450-foot shot.
• Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger threw out the first pitch before the game. His personalized jersey had his No. 36 and the name read, "Swaggg."
• Scott Feldman, the Astros' starter for the series finale against the Royals, pitched his first game since returning from a four-day stint on the bereavement list after the death of his father.
"Our hearts were definitely heavy for him," Porter said. "We know it's weighing on him, but we're extremely impressed with how professional he's been through the whole process. Just shows what quality of a guy he is."
• One of Springer's batting practice home runs appeared to reach the rail tracks high above the left-field stands, where a train full of oranges would move if he hit a home run during the game.
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.