5/8/2014 6:30 P.M. ET
Porter rewards Villar with jump to No. 2 spot
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Astros manager Bo Porter moved shortstop Jonathan Villar up to the second spot in the starting lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Tigers. Dexter Fowler, who normally hits second, was moved to third to replace catcher Jason Castro, who was given a day off.
"He's swung the bat well, and I'm just trying to get more guys at the top that will get on base," Porter said of Villar. "Hopefully we get another guy at the top of the lineup with [Jose] Altuve and Fowler -- arguably our three best baserunners. We feel like if we can get those guys on, we can create more run opportunities."
Villar, who has batted ninth for much of this season, didn't start on Wednesday because of a bruised right thumb, but he did pinch-run in the ninth inning, swiping two bases. Villar entered Thursday with 10 hits in his last 12 games, leading all Astros regulars in home runs (five), slugging percentage (.510) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.822).
"He's been outstanding," Porter said. "Even in Spring Training, you could tell he arrived with a different focus. He's been able to slow the game down more so than last year. I think that his attention to detail and preparation has been much improved from last year, and it's been showing in the results. I think he's starting to realize who he is as a player and what he's capable of doing, and he's making great strides."
Astros awaiting word on Cisnero's elbow injury
DETROIT -- Astros relief pitcher Jose Cisnero has returned to Houston and was examined by a team doctor on Thursday after he felt discomfort in his right elbow following an outing in Tuesday's 11-4 loss to the Tigers, in which he gave up two runs on three hits in one inning.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Thursday that the team was still awaiting results to determine the extent of Cisnero's injury.
"He had some discomfort, so we let him come in the next day and get evaluated and we felt we needed to have him see our doctors; we sent him here," said Luhnow, who remained in Houston during the series against the Tigers.
Cisnero was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 25 and has since appeared in five games with the Astros. Cisnero's injury could play into the roster decisions the Astros are going to have to make soon. Starting pitcher Scott Feldman is set to come off the disabled list on Friday, and reliever Matt Albers will throw a simulated game on Friday and could come off the DL this weekend.
"There will probably be a couple of things we have to do, depending on how long Cisnero is going to be out," Luhnow said.
Astros plan to stick with McHugh in rotation
DETROIT -- With veteran right-hander Scott Feldman set to come off the disabled list on Friday and start against the Orioles, it's still unclear who will be leaving the Astros' starting rotation to make room for him.
What is known is that right-hander Collin McHugh, who made three starts in place of Feldman, will remain in the rotation and make his fourth start on Saturday against the Orioles in Baltimore. Jarred Cosart will start Sunday's series finale at Camden Yards.
Astros manager Bo Porter said the club will make a corresponding roster move prior to Friday's game to open up a roster spot for Feldman, who will be making his first start since April 17. It appears either Dallas Keuchel, Brad Peacock or Brett Oberholtzer will be removed from the rotation.
McHugh was dazzling in his first two starts in place of Feldman. He struck out 12 batters in 6 2/3 innings on April 22 at Seattle and held the A's to one run and two hits over 8 2/3 innings on April 27. McHugh struggled a bit in his most recent outing, on Sunday against Seattle, allowing five earned runs and eight hits in four innings.
"He threw the ball well," Porter said of McHugh. "Even in the last start, against Seattle, I felt like he battled. He still had his secondary stuff. It wasn't as sharp as it was the first two times out, but you look at the body of work in the three starts, and I feel he deserves an opportunity."
Bill may help Astros land two-team spring facility
DETROIT -- The Astros' attempts to get a two-team Spring Training facility built in Palm Beach County, Fla., received a boost last week when the Florida legislature passed a bill that increases the amount of funding available from the state for the project.
Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe said the bill shortened the time period during which the state would help fund the project. Instead of funding $50 million over 37 years, the state will now fund that amount in 25 years. It increased what was available from the state from about $1.6 million per year to $2 million per year, Kibbe said.
"The additional money, on a yearly basis, helps us on the bond capacity," Kibbe said. "It's an important number that adds a lot to what we can build. It was an important piece of legislation that is just one piece to the whole financing puzzle. We still have a long way to go, but it was an important piece of legislation that we have been working on for years."
The Astros are under contract with Osceola County Stadium through 2016 and are working with the Washington Nationals in exploring the building of a two-team shared complex that would open in 2017. The Astros haven't ruled out staying in Kissimmee, but their preference is to head to Palm Beach County.
Zeid working to recruit Ausmus for Israel trip
DETROIT -- Astros relief pitcher Josh Zeid is hoping to join some fellow Jewish baseball players on a trip to Israel to help promote the sport.
Zeid was hoping to recruit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who managed Zeid for team Israel during last year's World Baseball Classic, to join some players on the trip. Ausmus, the longtime Astros catcher, is half-Jewish.
"I know someone from Major League Baseball is trying to set up a trip to Israel, so I'll see if he's actually interested in that and kind of go from there," Zeid said of Ausmus. "He's a big figurehead for me and for us."
Zeid said that Jewish youth have the opportunity to take a free trip to Israel prior to turning 26 as part of a birthright trip.
"If you're Jewish, you get to go to the Holy Land and all that stuff, and the all the guys are trying to set up a Major League Baseball version of that because a lot of us growing up didn't have the time or vacation period to go to Israel," Zeid said. "We're trying to see if we can [begin] a little baseball grassroots in Israel."