HOUSTON -- Carlos Lee turned 36 years old on Wednesday, and as the oldest player on the young Astros' squad, his teammates took the opportunity to remind Lee of his relative advanced age.
When Lee arrived in the clubhouse Wednesday morning, there was a large sign above his locker that read, "Happy 56th birthday." There was also a wheelchair in front of his locker with a foam cushion, as well as a walking stick.
"That just goes to show you how much my teammates love me," said Lee, who wasn't sure who was behind the prank.
Lee, who is in the final year of a six-year, $100 million contract, is one of only five Astros players who are over 30 years old -- along with Brandon Lyon (32), Wandy Rodriguez (33), Brett Myers (31) and Chris Snyder (31).
Lee went 1-for-3 on his special day in the Astros' 2-1 loss.
Mills drops Lowrie down in Astros' order
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills dropped shortstop Jed Lowrie to sixth in the batting order on Wednesday against the Royals, but he said it had more to do with Lowrie's struggles as a right-handed hitter rather than his overall funk.
Lowrie, who was in a 2-for-28 slump before going 1-for-3 with a walk in Wednesday's 2-1 loss, has hit primarily second or third this year. This was only the second time he's hit lower than sixth for the Astros, during which he's hitting .196 as a right-hander and .294 as a left-hander.
"You can say he's been struggling, but the struggles he's been having are more right-handed than left-handed," Mills said. "We want him in the lineup and he's still potent, especially from the right side where he's had a history of a lot of success. We just bumped him down and we want him to take some time and get back going again."
Lowrie leads all Major League shortstops with 13 home runs and is first in slugging percentage, which general manager Jeff Luhnow believes should get him some consideration for the All-Star Game. The only Astros player in the running in fan voting is second baseman Jose Altuve, who's third at his position.
"It does disappoint me," Luhnow said. "If you look at what [Lowrie] has done, and I'm not just talking about his offense, either, his numbers are better than any [shortstop] in baseball, but if you look at what he's done defensively he's been a very reliable shortstop. I would urge all of our fans, with a few days to go, to put in a vote for Jed Lowrie because he deserves to be in the All-Star Game."
Lowrie appreciates the support of his GM.
"That's nice to hear he has confidence in me, and all I can do is go out there and play the game the way I know how and let that other stuff work itself out," he said. "I would love to go to the All-Star Game. That would be a great honor. I'm more focused on what I can do to help this team win on a day-to-day basis."
Weiland looking forward to possible return
HOUSTON -- Now that he's been given a clean bill of health after taking antibiotics intravenously for six weeks to clear up an infection in his right shoulder, Astros pitcher Kyle Weiland can begin to look forward to getting back on the mound at some point this year.
Weiland, who was acquired from the Red Sox in the offseason and made three starts for Houston before going on the disabled list, had his antibiotic drip port removed from his left arm on Tuesday and no longer has restrictions when it comes to exercise. Weiland has plenty of work ahead of him, though, considering he hasn't thrown in two months and lost 15 pounds.
"As of [Tuesday], I was going through my full shoulder routine and they stretch me a lot to try to continue to get the range of motion back," Weiland said. "It's getting close to where it was in Spring Training. From here, it's just continuing to push myself and keep fighting through the pain of breaking up scar tissue."
Weiland had to change the type of antibiotics he was on about three weeks into his ordeal after a bad reaction threw off his immune system and landed him back in the hospital. He called the ordeal a "nightmare," but hopes to pitch again this year.
"They're not giving me a timetable and they told me that from the beginning," he said. "It's kind of a unique injury to a pitcher; an infection with the shoulder isn't something that happens every day. But I set my own personal goals, and I'm hoping to be throwing maybe off the mound by the All-Star break, and from there we'll see. I have to start from square one."
Luhnow sees Clemens in development role
HOUSTON -- Now that Astros owner Jim Crane has reached out to seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens about getting involved in the organization with his legal troubles behind him, general manager Jeff Luhnow said he'd love to have Clemens play a role in player development.
Clemens signed a 10-year personal services contract with the Astros that kicked in when he retired following the 2007 season. Clemens hasn't been involved in the Houston organization since leaving to join the Yankees in '07.
"It's great to have former players, who've had a great deal of success in the Major League level, involved in the organization," Luhnow said. "Everybody has a certain level of expertise, and in Roger's case, a lot of what we're trying to teach the pitchers, with respect to the delivery, the approach to the game and the work ethic, he's excelled at all that. He's great to have a living, breathing example of what we're trying to teach, so that has the potential to have a big impact."
Luhnow isn't exactly sure what kind of role Clemens would have if he becomes more involved. The Astros have several former players serving as special assistants, with former players Enos Cabell and Craig Biggio more active than Jeff Bagwell.
"There's no question every Minor League affiliate would love to have Roger Clemens come and visit and talk to the pitchers, and the pitchers in the big leagues would love to talk to him," Luhnow said. "We just have to see how much time he has available to dedicate to this and what area he'll be best served. We'll work it out, I'm sure."
Astros manager Brad Mills is on board with Clemens returning.
"I'm thrilled with the way things have transpired over the last couple days," he said.
Outfielder Fernando Martinez (concussion) is likely to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday in Nashville.
Right-hander Bud Norris, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a sprained left knee, threw a light bullpen session Wednesday and is scheduled to make a rehab start on Saturday with Oklahoma City.