HOUSTON -- When starting pitcher Bud Norris went on the disabled list earlier this month with a sprained left knee, left-hander Dallas Keuchel was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City for his Major League debut and went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts, including a complete game on Saturday.
With Norris set to return to the rotation later this week, Astros manager Brad Mills announced Tuesday night that Keuchel would stay in the rotation. The Astros are going with a six-man pitching rotation through the All-Star break, Mills said, with Keuchel starting Thursday against the Padres and Norris on Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The team will make a corresponding roster move for Norris' return to action prior to Friday's game in Chicago.
The Astros are in the midst of one of their best runs by starting pitchers this season. Houston starters have gone 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA in the team's last nine games, with the highlight coming Saturday when Keuchel held the Indians to six hits and one run for the team's first complete game of the season.
Mills took advantage of some off-days and used a four-man rotation for most of the first two months of the season, with Jordan Lyles and Aneury Rodriguez making spot starts here and there.
Crane talks potential changes moving forward
HOUSTON -- While meeting with the media on Wednesday to discuss the Astros' new community initiatives, owner Jim Crane said the team is awaiting approval from Major League Baseball on its new uniform designs, while hinting more changes could take place next year.
Crane was asked if the locomotive above left field, which will be partially hidden by the new Community Leaders program sign, will return next year.
"We haven't made a decision on the train yet," he said. "I think center field [the hill] is under consideration and the train is under consideration. Those are the two things people question me about all the time. We're going to do our marketing research and study it and try to make a good decision."
The Astros hope to have new uniforms next year when they move to the American League, but Crane didn't drop any hints about what they might look like.
"I don't want to get in trouble with Major League Baseball," he joked. "We're just trying to sell tickets and do good things in the community."
Meanwhile, Crane said he spoke Wednesday to the Hendricks brothers, who represent Roger Clemens, about setting up a meeting to discuss Clemens' role with the club. Clemens signed a 10-year personal services contract with the Astros that began after he retired.
"He is under contract and we'd like to have him out and do something here," Crane said.
Astros place Maxwell on DL amid flurry of moves
HOUSTON -- The Astros on Tuesday placed outfielder Justin Maxwell on the 15-day disabled list with loose bodies in his left ankle and designed outfielder Travis Buck for assignment, removing him from the 40-man roster. The club also purchased the contract of outfielder Scott Moore from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The team also reinstated outfielder Fernando Martinez from the disabled list and optioned him to Oklahoma City, where he was on a Minor League rehab following a concussion.
Maxwell, who has not played in the outfield since June 20 due to lingering discomfort in his ankle, will undergo an arthroscopic procedure within the next week to remove the loose bodies and will miss four to six weeks. Maxwell has eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 61 games this season with a Major League-best three pinch-hit homers.
"We thought it was something he could probably play through and it's possible that could have happened, but we really felt this was the right time to go ahead and take care of it so he could get back here and play 100 percent for whatever the balance of the season was when he gets back," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "For him and for us, that's the best answer."
Moore was expected to arrive in Houston on Tuesday night after playing earlier in the day for Oklahoma City, where he was hitting .318 with 26 doubles, 10 home runs and 54 RBIs in 73 games. He can play every position except shortstop, center field and catcher.
"It's a great opportunity for us to see Scott Moore," Luhnow said. "He's been absolutely delivering everything we've asked him to deliver in Oklahoma City, playing good defense. He's a versatile player and he's been hitting, hitting for power, taking walks, doing everything we asked him to do. It's great when you get an opportunity to promote a player who has done exactly what we've asked him to do."
Moore, 28, who was originally a first-round Draft pick of the Tigers in 2002, was with the Astros in Spring Training after signing a Minor League contract on Nov. 15, 2011. He has played in a combined 80 Major League games with the Cubs and Orioles over parts of four seasons (2006-08, 2010).
Buck went on the DL on May 29 with tendinitis in his right Achilles after appearing in 33 games for the Astros this season. He was 3-for-21 during his Minor League rehab stint with Double-A Corpus Christi, and is now healthy. The Astros have 10 days to make a decision on what to do with Buck's contract, but Luhnow said they want him to stay in the organization.
"I talked to him last night and expressed our desire to maintain him in the organization," Luhnow said. "Obviously, he's a veteran and had been outrighted before and can elect his free agency, but I'm hoping he chooses to stay with us and play every day and earn another trip back up here."
Martinez, 23, played in six games with Oklahoma City while on a rehab assignment prior to being reinstated from the DL and optioned. He had been on the DL with post concussion syndrome. For the season, Martinez is hitting .340 in 57 games for the RedHawks with eight home runs and 40 RBIs. He appeared in four games for the Astros prior to being placed on the DL on June 9.
"He was playing very well before he came up and struggled a little bit when he got here, and we need him to go back and find what he had before," Luhnow said.
Altuve out of lineup for second straight game
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills doesn't want second baseman Jose Altuve back in the lineup until he can run at 100 percent.
Altuve was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game Tuesday against the Padres because of a strained hamstring.
Altuve was prepared to bunt late in Monday's game, but the opportunity didn't arise.
"He says he feels better today," Mills said. "Those hamstring strains are tough. To make him more available than that, that would be stretching it. I want this guy to run 100 percent before he's able to get back out there and do something."
Altuve, who's third in the voting at second base in the National League for the All-Star Game, has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls.
"I'm going to do everything to be ready, in case we need a pinch-hitter or something like that," he said.
Meanwhile, relief pitcher Wilton Lopez will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday to gauge the sprained right elbow that's kept him on the disabled list since June 11. Mills would like Lopez to make at least one Minor League rehab appearance.
"When you start facing hitters and you get up and the adrenaline starts pumping up a little bit, things are a little bit different than just throwing in the bullpen," Mills said. "That's the best way to know whether you're OK or not. If we don't send him and put him on the hill and something happens, then we screwed up and we lost some time."
Mills also said infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who's been on the disabled list since June 7 with a bruised right heel, could begin a Minor League rehab stint later this week.