5/6/2014 7:55 P.M. ET
Qualls credits Ausmus for growth as pitcher
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
DETROIT -- When Astros pitcher Chad Qualls made his big league debut nearly 10 years ago, he leaned heavily on veteran reliever Russ Springer to learn how to carry himself and veteran catcher Brad Ausmus to learn about the nuances of pitching in the Majors.
Qualls, who returned to Houston this year on a two-year deal, took some time this week to catch up with Ausmus, who's in his first year as manager of the Tigers. As a young pitcher, Qualls learned quickly to put his compete trust in Ausmus.
"Brad was really good," Qualls said. "I was open-minded about pitching, so there were numerous times when I had two strikes or something on a guy and he would signal for a sinker, and I would shake him off. I wanted to throw a slider in the dirt. He'd put down for a sinker, and I would shake. He'd put down sinker again and I would shake, and he would put down sinker down and stare at me. I was, 'OK, I have to throw that pitch.'"
Qualls would then take the opportunity to talk to Ausmus in the dugout and ask him about the pitch sequence.
"I would just ask, 'Why would you want me to throw a sinker there?' Because I didn't know," he said. "He said the guy had no chance on my fastball. Sure enough, it worked. He's really in tune with the game and just taught me that sometimes you don't always have to throw sliders. I can get guys out with my fastball with two strikes."
Even back then, Qualls could tell Ausmus was managerial material.
"Everybody knows he's a Dartmouth guy and a smart guy," Qualls said. "Not only is he smart, but he understands that there's different individuals in the clubhouse. Everyone is different. He really was a great catcher. You don't hit .200 every year -- OK, I'll give him .225 -- and play for like 15 years. He definitely knows the game of baseball and knows what to do and how it's supposed to be played.
"He's a well-respected guy. When he retired and when I would read he wanted to manage, I knew it would come along. He just had to wait for the right opportunity, and he inherited a team that had 90-something wins last year and some great players. He deserves it."
Feldman, Albers throw bullpen sessions
DETROIT -- Astros pitchers Scott Feldman and Matt Albers both threw in the bullpen Tuesday at Comerica Park as they get close to coming off the disabled list.
Feldman, on the DL with right biceps tendinitis, will start Friday's series opener at Baltimore, his former team. He's started three games this year, going 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA. Feldman started to feel some discomfort throwing in the bullpen after that start and became concerned because his velocity was down.
"Honestly, it feels really good," Feldman said. "I don't want to jinx it, but it feels like it's all gone. We'll see how it goes, but hopefully I can throw harder than 86 [mph] when I come back."
Albers, meanwhile, hasn't pitched since April 21 because of right shoulder tendinitis. He threw 25 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.
"I look forward to getting back to being healthy and helping this team win," Albers said. "That's what I'm trying to do right now."
Astros manager Bo Porter didn't tip his hand about any upcoming roster moves -- specifically which starter will be removed from the rotation to make room for Feldman. Collin McHugh, who was called up to replace Feldman, is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts.
Altuve proud to draw praise from Vizquel
DETROIT -- When he was growing up in Venezuela, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve idolized Omar Vizquel, a fellow Venezuelan who played 24 seasons and won 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop. Altuve worshiped Vizquel and wanted to be just like him.
When Altuve signed with the Astros at 16 years old, Vizquel came to the Astros' academy in Venezuela and spoke to a group of young players, including Altuve. Now Vizquel is the one admiring what Altuve is doing on the field, especially at 5-foot-6.
"I never thought that one of those guys was going to make it to the big leagues and become the kind of player that he is nowadays," said Vizquel, the Tigers' first-base coach. "I think he has impressed a lot of people -- especially because of his size -- and he can hit the ball a long way. He's a smart player. It's great to see a guy like that establish himself in the big leagues and play with the big guys."
Vizquel, who called Altuve one of the best second baseman in the American League, envisions more All-Star appearances in his future. Altuve, a National League All-Star in 2012, entered Tuesday leading the AL with 11 steals while ranking fifth with 27 hits.
"With the kind of ability he has, he can do whatever he wants," Vizquel said. "Being an All-Star only a couple of years in the big leagues is amazing. And then I saw him hitting fourth [in the lineup]. That's crazy. A guy that small, it shows you what kind of player he is that he's hitting fourth.
"I'm glad he's made the sacrifices he made to get here, and I'm glad somebody believed in his abilities. He's showing it right now."
Altuve smiled from ear to ear when he heard how much Vizquel respects the way he plays the game.
"I appreciate the way he's talking about me," Altuve said. "The only thing is I try to come here and play hard and help my team. Things like the All-Star Game and Gold Gloves, right now those are secondary to me. I'm trying to do everything I can to get the team to where it has to be."
Porter proving adept at winning challenges
DETROIT -- Astros manager Bo Porter has a pretty good success rate in instant-replay challenges this year, getting five of the seven calls he's challenged overturned entering Tuesday. Porter had nailed five in a row before he rolled the dice in the eighth inning Monday and didn't get the call he wanted.
Porter gave credit to the men who monitor the replays in the clubhouse -- video coordinator Jim Summers for most home games, and coordinator of baseball operations Pete Putila for most road games.
"I feel like our guys are doing a tremendous job," he said. "When you start to get these [close] plays, you have your naked eye. But sometimes there's plays that happen and I think I see it one way, and quickly the phone will ring and they'll go, 'No, he's safe.' Those guys have done a tremendous job of getting the information down to us, and I think it's worked pretty well so far."
When he challenged a play in the fifth inning Monday, Porter turned to face the dugout while talking to the umpire so he could get a signal from bench coach Dave Trembley, who had been on the phone with the person manning the replays, on whether to challenge.
"By the time I went out there and started talking to the umpires, I received a signal that we should challenge," Porter said. "Your eyes tell you what you think about it, but at the same time, because you have the advantage of technology, you kind of get confirmation once you get out there."
Porter said one of the trickiest things about the new system is the fact you have to decide within 10 seconds on a play that was the final out of the inning whether to challenge.
"They don't want the pitcher standing there for a long period of time if they end up overturning it," he said.
• Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart notched a rare achievement Monday when he struck out Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez looking in the first inning. It was the first time in more than a year -- 154 games to be exact -- that someone had struck him out looking. It hadn't been done since May 21, 2013, when Matt Albers -- currently on the Astros, but then with Cleveland -- got Martinez looking.
Cosart threw Martinez four consecutive curveballs to start the at-bat before capping it with a fastball.
"You throw a guy four straight curveballs at 78, 79 [mph], you got it in their mind to set up for something 78. And to get a fastball down and away, that's pretty much the perfect spot," Cosart said. "I think it might have just froze him and caught him off-guard. That was huge. I take a lot of pride in that."