7/12/2014 12:53 A.M. ET
Albers throwing, but yet to face live hitters
By Chris Abshire / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- It's still a long road back for Matt Albers.
The Astros reliever remains sidelined with right shoulder tendinitis, and there's no date in sight for his return despite being on the disabled list since April 22.
"I'm trying not to set a date yet because I've been burned on that already," Albers said. "[I'm] starting to feel a little better, but just not quite ready yet."
Despite not wanting to set a date, Albers said he is "optimistic" an August return is in the cards for him.
The main problem, Albers said, is the inconsistency. He'll build his strength back up with rehab and even some bullpen sessions, but when he "lets it eat," the soreness returns.
"I'm just trying to get over that last hump," Albers said.
The right-hander has been throwing from 90 feet this week, though he remains off a mound for now. He threw several bullpen sessions during a stint last month at the Astros' team facility in Florida, but none recently. And he has yet to do any work against live batters.
"The guys on the DL, until they get on the mound and start pitching to hitters, that's when we'll start discussing a plan to get them activated," said manager Bo Porter.
Albers said the injury is similar to a 2008 tendinitis issue, when he missed roughly half the season. He's on pace for a similar absence this time for a problem that he initially thought wouldn't even require DL time when it first flared up.
"I didn't think it was as bad this time," Albers said. "It feels so close and then you almost start over sometimes. Just don't want to rush anything with your arm."
Albers, who struck out eight and allowed just one run over 10 innings in April, could help shore up an Astros bullpen that has been a sore spot of late.
Springer day to day with knee discomfort
HOUSTON -- Rookie outfielder George Springer was a late scratch from the lineup for Friday's game against the Red Sox because of right knee discomfort stemming from his collision with the outfield wall earlier this week at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
"He came out and did all the pregame activity," manager Bo Porter said after the Astros' 8-3 loss to Boston. "After going through that, we decided he is still sore from crashing into the wall in Arlington. And it was more a group decision to be cautious and not let this here thing get to a point where it bothers him moving forward."
Robbie Grossman slid over to start in center field, while L.J. Hoes came off the bench to play right field. Hoes made an error in right -- Springer's usual position when Dexter Fowler is healthy -- and seemed a step late on several other well-hit balls.
Springer has 19 home runs this season, but his aggressive style in the outfield and on the basepaths has already cost him a few starts since being called up in April.
The slugger missed a pair of games against Seattle in May due to a hip flexor and sat for two consecutive games against Arizona in June with a similar right knee issue.
Springer may return during this series, but with two games left before the All-Star break, Houston may elect to let him rest until the second half. Porter did not rule out outfielder's return this weekend, though.
"We'll see how he feels [Saturday]," Porter said. "He was able to get treatment the rest of the day. Hopefully, he comes back tomorrow in better shape than he was today, and it's less painful."
For the time being, Springer is day to day.
Oberholtzer to start in McHugh's place Saturday
HOUSTON -- Collin McHugh will miss his scheduled Saturday start due to a fingernail issue stemming from his last outing, when he exited Sunday's game against the Angels after four innings. Southpaw Brett Oberholtzer will be called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to make a spot start in McHugh's place, manager Bo Porter said Friday.
A corresponding roster move will be announced prior to Saturday's game.
"It's one of those things where, looking at the fact we have the All-Star Game next week, this would be [Collin's] last start before then," Porter said. "We'd rather just give his finger all the time we have before he makes his next start, which would be after the break."
McHugh said he did not throw a full bullpen session Thursday as expected, and the fingernail is still causing discomfort despite little outward indication of the issue. He did say the fingernail hadn't torn off, but a blister from under the nail had caused some pain.
The righty said he doesn't expect the issue to linger after the All-Star break, as he concludes a first half that saw him emerge as a welcome surprise with a 3.28 ERA over 14 starts.
Meanwhile, Oberholtzer is back up in spot duty. The lefty pitched into the seventh inning twice in his most recent big league stint, including a one-run effort vs. Detroit on June 28.
"He's done a tremendous job," Porter said of Oberholtzer's fill-in role. "He has the right mindset that comes with being able to understand where we are as a team and the times we've needed to plug him in. I've told him, he's saved us a lot of times when we needed to bring that guy up to keep our bullpen in good condition. He's delivered quality start after quality start."
Oberholtzer spent the final half of the 2013 season in the Astros' rotation, going 4-5 with a 2.76 ERA and four shutouts before struggling out of the gate this season and being sent down to the Minors.
Castro returns to lineup after missing three games
HOUSTON -- Former All-Star catcher Jason Castro returned to the Astros' lineup on Friday night after missing the previous three games with an unknown ailment in his left underarm and armpit area.
"The arm feels a lot better, happy with how the treatment went and we got it taken care of as quickly as possible," he said.
The soreness was so pervasive that Castro said he could barely take his own shirt off after arriving in Arlington early Monday. Following the rest period, Castro said he feels "100 percent."
Though the injury ultimately hasn't lingered, it did halt one of Castro's best hitting stretches of a trying season so far. He hit .412 during a four-game set against the Angels last weekend.
"He just started swinging the bat well and feeling good in the batter's box," said manager Bo Porter. "That discomfort underneath his arm held him back for a bit, but he'll pick right up. We're glad he's back."
While Castro was out, the Astros broke out of a minor offensive slide, producing 28 runs in their three-game sweep of the Rangers.
"It's tough, because you want to grab a bat and head into the on-deck circle and get a piece of the action, but obviously that wasn't possible," the catcher said. "If we can keep that momentum going, I want to get my shot."
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.