8/8/2014 8:22 P.M. ET
Astros skip batting practice before opener vs. Texas
By Chris Abshire / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The Astros got a rare day off on Friday, emphasis on the word day.
While they still played the Rangers as scheduled, the team did not take batting practice after a late arrival from Philadelphia stretched into the wee morning hours.
The team plane didn't touch down until after 2 a.m. and most players say they didn't get to sleep until nearly 4 a.m. Per team orders, the clubhouse didn't even open to players until 3 p.m. Friday, at least three hours later than usual.
Catcher Jason Castro said the break from batting practice was the first time he can remember having a night game with full BP since last July against the Mariners. Even that, he said, was maybe the only time in his big league career it happened prior to Friday.
The downtime is sorely needed for the Astros. Castro said the team spent the Phillies series chasing rest after a 15-inning marathon loss to open the trip on Monday.
"I think everybody was a little fatigued, and the mini-day off is definitely something that should help us a lot," Castro noted.
Manager Bo Porter acknowledged how rare it was to play a night game sans on-field warmups, but it wasn't just the players he had to think about.
"You're gonna get back at 2 or 3 in the morning, and there's a lot of things that go into getting ready for the game," Porter said. "The equipment people probably didn't get done unloading everything until maybe 4 a.m. To ask those guys to have the clubhouse ready to go at noon would have been unfair to everybody."
"Baseball is a long season. Sometimes, you need extra sleep."
Springer returns from rehab, but not active yet
HOUSTON -- After cutting his rehab stint at Class A Quad Cities short, George Springer is back with the Astros but not activated and is "day-to-day," manager Bo Porter said on Friday.
Springer, who has been on the 15-day disabled list with a left quad strain since July 20, is eligible at any time to return, but Porter said the team wants to make sure the outfielder is fine after tweaking the quad on Wednesday.
"Treatment today, he'll come out tomorrow and go through a complete workday and we'll make an assessment then," Porter said.
Springer was 1-for-4 with a double, three walks and two stolen bases in three games with Quad Cities.
For his part, Springer said he felt "OK," and said the tweak wasn't a concern.
"I felt good, just got tight on me, but that happens at this stage," he said.
What is a concern is how Springer will handle his return, when he may need to ease back into the fold. That would be at odds with the rookie's penchant for going all-out with sometimes reckless abandon on the basepaths and in the outfield.
"If I go out there, I'm going to play because that's just how I am," he said. "But it's hard to be somebody you're not and doing things you don't know how to do, which is go slow or take it easy."
Porter said the Astros may counteract that by having Springer serve as a designated hitter when he returns.
Carter's power surge comes at right time
HOUSTON -- Chris Carter's recent power surge couldn't come at a better time for the Astros.
With Houston's entire starting outfield injured, including middle-of-the order slugger George Springer's recent DL stint, Carter has picked up the slack.
After cranking two more homers in Philadelphia Thursday night and another Friday night against Texas, Carter is first in the Majors with 12 home runs since July 1. Entering Friday, he led baseball with a .685 slugging percentage since July 1 and also was second in OPS (1.055), third in RBIs (27) and was batting .315 in just over 100 at-bats.
"Chris has been tremendous," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "You talk about a guy who when he's right can carry a club offensively. Right now, he's carrying our club."
Carter has 25 home runs and is on pace to hit 30-plus, which he narrowly missed with 29 last year. He's also cut his strikeout rate by about 10 percent.
Porter said the next step is combining Carter's prolific power with a healthy lineup.
The slugger's numbers were down early in the season, meaning the Astros' lineup never really clicked despite Springer's strong May and June and Dexter Fowler's prolific on-base percentage.
"When he and [Jason] Castro were going through some woes early on, they were the two guys we knew we needed to be a good offensive club," Porter said. "Once we get the guys that are on the mend back… and with Carter hitting, we can really put up some runs."
As for where Houston would be if Carter hadn't tapped into his power over the last six weeks?
"I don't even want to think about that, to be honest," Castro said. "He's been huge. What he can bring to the table when he's on is impressive. Not a lot of guys have the raw power he has.
"The timing was definitely right."
Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.