HOUSTON -- There are few faces more synonymous with pro baseball in Texas than Nolan Ryan. So when Ryan speaks, as he did before Saturday's game between the Astros and Rangers, people listen.
Though he is the CEO of the Rangers and part of the team's ownership group, Ryan has more than a few ties to the Astros organization. He played in Houston for nine seasons, tossed the fifth of his seven career no-hitters with the club and reached the 3,000 strikeout mark as an Astro.
But his connection to the team was really renewed this season, as his son, Reid, was hired to be Astros president on May 17.
Reid is a gregarious figure for the organization, but it's still a new job, one Nolan says is becoming second nature to his son.
"With Reid, it's like anybody coming into a new position and never holding it before. It's a real learning curve," Ryan said. "He has such an enthusiasm, a passion for baseball, that I think it's been a real good fit for him. The challenge of selling his home, changing towns, of moving here and getting his kids in school, just added to the learning curve with the ballclub.
"I think he's handled it really well. If you asked him today about his comfort level and confidence, it's much higher than it was a month ago."
Ryan also spoke about the Astros' recent bullpen woes, which his team took advantage of to the tune of six late runs in a 9-5 win over Houston on Friday night.
"I can tell you, the emphasis on bullpens have changed in my career," he said. "When I went through a rebuilding process with the Angels, we had an inexperienced bullpen, but they were used totally different. You went with your starting pitchers until the end of games."
Two Astros relievers, Jorge De Leon and Kevin Chapman, made their Major League debuts on Friday, and seven of Houston's nine bullpen arms are rookies. The Astros' bullpen has an ERA of 7.46 since June 23 and has blown five of six save opportunities during the last two weeks.
"The emphasis on bullpens now is higher than ever before," Ryan said. "And I think that the Astros are asking a lot of young kids that don't have a lot of experience to step on a Major League stage, and there's challenges there. With young players, there's so much inconsistency, and I think that's what they're seeing.
"At the end of the year, their baseball department and [Houston manager] Bo Porter will have a better feel for what areas they'll need to strengthen."
Carter looking to cut down on swings and misses
HOUSTON -- Having recently set the club single-season strikeout record, Astros outfielder Chris Carter remains focused on trying to cut down on his swings and misses while finding a way to break out of his month-long funk.
Carter, whose 151 strikeouts entering play Saturday led the American League, is hitting .130 (10-for-77) since July 4, with two homers, eight RBIs and 36 strikeouts in that span. His batting average has dropped to .209 from .231.
"I've never thought about the record or anything like that," Carter said. "It's part of the game and just something I've always kind of done, but the last few years I've tried to cut back. Sometimes you can't help it."
Astros manager Bo Porter remains committed to Carter, thanks to his raw power. Carter leads the club with 19 home runs and is second with 52 RBIs.
"Guys that have that kind of power can change the game in one swing," Porter said. "It's light-tower power. At some point you say enough at-bats is enough, but I think at [682 career at-bats] and one season with the Houston Astros isn't enough to say that. Let's face it, there's not guys who are falling out of trees that have the kind of power this man has."
Carter has proven to be streaky, but he can carry a club at times. He hit .526 with four homers and seven RBIs in a four-game stretch earlier this year. Still, Porter would like to see him not swing and miss at pitches out of the strike zone so much.
"I think we have to play this thing out," Porter said. "Some people, they were looking to say, 'Why continue on?' You continue on because every so often he reminds you what it is he can do. You just hope it becomes more consistent from a positive standpoint."
Astros in no rush to promote Springer to Majors
HOUSTON -- Those hoping to see outfield prospect George Springer in an Astros uniform at some point this month might want to temper the enthusiasm. Astros manager Bo Porter maintained Saturday that Springer's future would be discussed down the road.
Springer, ranked by MLB.com as the club's No. 3 prospect, hit his 30th home run of the season Friday night, helping Triple-A Oklahoma City to its 13th win in its last 14 games. He's the first player in the Minor Leagues to reach 30 homers and at least 30 stolen bases since Grant Desme for the Oakland system in 2009. Springer has 11 homers with Oklahoma City after hitting 19 at Double-A Corpus Christi, and he has 38 stolen bases -- 15 with Oklahoma City and 23 at Corpus Christi.
"It's a huge accomplishment, no matter what level of baseball you're talking about," Porter said. "George has put together a pretty good year."
Porter gave no indications when Springer might arrive in Houston, if even at all this year. At this point, it wouldn't be surprising to see him finish the season in Oklahoma City, including the playoffs.
"When he gets here, I don't think it would be hard writing his name in the lineup," Porter said. "Obviously, the skill sets and the type of season he put together in the Minor Leagues, it would be something that was exciting for the city of Houston and the ballclub at the same time."
• Shortstop Jonathan Villar was held out of the starting lineup again Saturday while he recovers from a sprained left thumb, which gives him more trouble hitting right-handed than left-handed. The Astros were facing a lefty on Saturday and Sunday, so Villar could return on Monday.
• With the Astros using a six-man pitching rotation, right-handed starter Jordan Lyles was available in the bullpen for Saturday's game. Lyles was scheduled to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Saturday, but he'll wait to see if he's needed in relief first.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.