Notes: Lamb prefers to get off bench
Qualls, Backe making progress; GM to chat Monday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Like any typical Major Leaguer, Mike Lamb would like to be considered as an everyday player -- and he doesn't mean pinch-hitting six times a week.
In his three years with the Astros, Lamb has found a comfort level after several tumultuous years with the Rangers, the team that drafted him. But that doesn't mean Lamb is entirely satisfied -- he, like most bench players out there, would like to play more.
Not that Lamb is disgruntled. He understands that his role as a power left-handed hitter off the bench is one of manager Phil Garner's best weapons. He understands it takes everyone -- 25 players who start the season, plus several more who come and go during the course of a six-month season -- to get to the playoffs. But despite the success he's found in a supporting role, he's still hesitant to embrace the "bench player" label.
"Every player would prefer to start," Lamb said. "There is not a player that I know that has aspired to be a bench player."
Lamb recalled a comment former Rangers teammate Chad Curtis made regarding his goals heading into Spring Training a few years ago.
"He goes to camp and says, "I want to be the leadoff hitter and center fielder, because this club needs both,'" Lamb chuckled. "Everyone's like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe he said that, what a jerk.'
"And I thought, who goes to camp aspiring to be the fifth outfielder, to get 50 at-bats?"
In Lamb's case, however, it's highly unlikely he'll languish on the bench, and it's guaranteed he'll receive a lot more than 50 at-bats. His value lies with his ability to knock the cover off the ball in the late innings of a close game, but he also provides insurance at third base, in case Morgan Ensberg can't handle the every day job.
His role may be up in the air, but Lamb maintains a steady sense of humor. To pass the time, he and fellow pinch-hitting extraordinaire Orlando Palmeiro continue to plot their way into the hearts and minds of All-Star and Hall of Fame voters everywhere.
"We're on the bandwagon for the 10th man award," Lamb said. "And the Hall of Fame wing for bench players. And, the All-Star Game -- if a reliever can be in there, why can't a bench player?"
In honor of the Lenny Harrises, Dave Hansens and Manny Motas of the baseball world, Lamb endorses the MVBP award for the Most Valuable Bench Player.
"It's an aspect of the game that is very important," Lamb said. "A bench player can go up there and win a baseball game with one swing. It just doesn't get the recognition it deserves."
Improving: Chad Qualls has spent the early stages of Spring Training nursing a sore shoulder, but the right-hander indicated on Friday that he's making progress.
"It might have been tendinitis," Qualls said. "Other than that, it felt like it was cramping up on me. It seems like it's getting better."
Qualls threw a bullpen session on Thursday and said it was the best he's thrown this spring.
"That put my mind at ease," he added.
Progress: Brandon Backe estimated he'll begin throwing off the mound as early as the week after next, which will be a nice change from the mundane routine of long-tossing on flat ground.
"It's something different," he said. "It's all exciting when there's something different to do. Let's put it this way, I'm long-tossing for three weeks now and I've got one more week to do it. That last week is just getting tired of the same old repetition."
Backe, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will throw all fastballs for around 12 minutes when he finally gets on the mound.
"I know I have a long way to go," he said.
Purpura chat: Have a question for the GM? Join Tim Purpura for a live Web chat Monday at 2 p.m. CT. Purpura, who is beginning his third season as Astros GM, will field questions from fans online from the Astros Spring Training camp at Osceola County Stadium.
Calling all Parrotheads: Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band have announced that they will perform live at Minute Maid Park on April 21, during the Astros' nine-day road trip.
The gates open at 5 p.m. CT, and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets go on sale on Saturday, March 3, at 10 a.m. All tickets will be sold through Ticketmaster and can be obtained online at www.ticketmaster.com or livenation.com, or charged by phone by calling 713-629-3700. There will be a limit of eight tickets per order.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.