Notes: Garner considers lineup shuffle
Ensberg could hit out of the two-hole on Opening Day
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With Opening Day less than a week away, it appears manager Phil Garner is giving serious consideration to using a lineup much different than the one that was projected throughout most of the spring season.
The lineup Garner used on Tuesday for the Astros' home game with the Indians could be the one he goes with on April 2: Craig Biggio, 2B; Morgan Ensberg, 3B; Lance Berkman, 1B: Carlos Lee, LF; Luke Scott, RF; Chris Burke, CF; Adam Everett, SS, Brad Ausmus, C.
Ensberg in the two-hole? Scott hitting behind Lee? Burke hitting sixth?
Garner isn't committing to anything, but he wants to, as he put it, "see how this smells for now."
He's intrigued by Ensberg's .411 on-base percentage in the second half of last year. He likes the idea of having that kind of dependability setting the table for sluggers Berkman and Lee.
"The one thing Morgan has been very good at is getting on base," Garner said. "Lance will be the first to tell you it's not who hits behind him, it's who hits ahead of him, that's critical for him."
By inserting Scott or Lane into the five-hole, Garner is looking for some "thunder" that can back up Lee.
"You have to have somebody sitting back there that people are afraid of, so you have to pitch to Lee," Garner said. "It's the combination of who gets on ahead of him, it's also the combination of who bats behind him. If Scott or Lane do the job down there, that makes for a legitimate lineup."
Garner also suspects Burke could thrive hitting sixth.
"He's a guy that can drive in a lot of runs," Garner said. "That may be a hot spot for him."
Garner reserves the right to change his mind between now and Monday and stick with his original projected lineup that has Burke hitting second, Ensberg fifth and Scott or Lane sixth.
"It's just a thought," Garner said about plan B. "It's a consideration."
Better outing: Chris Sampson wasn't worried that his outing on Tuesday against the Indians would bear any similarities to his prior start, but still, he was a bit of overanxious in the first frame in what was his final Spring Training start.
Sampson, admitting he was a bit "over-amped" in the beginning, as he attempted to erase the memory of his 2 1/3-inning, 10-run outing last week against the Nationals.
That may explain the walk and base hit Sampson allowed right away against the Tribe. But he then retired 10 straight and held the Tribe to three hits over five innings.
"Bouncing back after a bad game and showing them that I didn't stay down on myself and I can bounce back from those things, I think really was a positive," Sampson said.
Hoping to make the starting rotation, Sampson is also receiving strong consideration as a long reliever.
"He helped himself a little bit, but decisions haven't been made yet," Garner said.
Minor acquisition: The Astros made a Minor League trade on Monday, acquiring catcher Danny Ardoin from the Washington Nationals in exchange for shortstop Wade Robinson.
Ardoin will serve as the backup catcher at Triple-A Round Rock.
"With [Hector] Gimenez down, either [Humberto] Quintero or [Eric] Munson will catch [for Round Rock], depending on who makes the [Astros] club," general manager Tim Purpura said. "We had nobody else ready to back up at Triple-A."
Getaway day: Technically, the Astros have "split squad" on their schedule for Thursday, but it's highly unlikely any marquee names will be showing up to Lakeland for the club's final Grapefruit League game with the Tigers.
The Astros are playing a night game in Round Rock that night, and most of the 25-man roster, plus the handful of hopefuls still trying to make the team, are leaving on the charter flight to Texas on Thursday morning.
A few from Major League camp will stay behind -- Fernando Nieve, who will start the game in Lakeland, plus Matt Albers, who will pitch after Nieve. Bench coach Cecil Cooper will manage the team and pitching coach Dave Wallace will also be there.
The rest of the crew will head to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate at The Dell Diamond.
Normally, teams are required to take at least four starters to every road game, but this one will have to be the exception to the rule. Garner spoke with Tigers manager Jim Leyland when the two teams met for the first spring game and Leyland said he had no problem with the Astros' plans.
Houston's travel roster to Lakeland will likely consist mostly of Double-A players, considering the Triple-A Express also has to be at The Dell Diamond on Thursday night.
"We'll use our talented, yet lesser known players," Garner said.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.