HOUSTON -- Although second baseman Jose Altuve has hit second in the order the past two days, manager Brad Mills expects to put shortstop Jed Lowrie back in that spot eventually. Altuve, who's hitting .370 in the No. 2 hole and .333 in the No. 8 hole, has been swinging a hot bat lately and Mills wants to ride it out.
Ultimately, Mills prefers the switch-hitting Lowrie in the second spot in the order. Lowrie hit well there in Spring Training before getting injured, but he was hitting fifth on Saturday.
"For the better part of Spring Training, Jed hit second and for the most part when he came back [from his injury], he was hitting second," Mills said. "I love having a left-handed hitter bat second, and Jed being a switch-hitter is even better."
Having a left-handed hitter bat second will give him a huge hole on the right side of the infield if Jordan Schafer can lead off with a hit or a walk. Plus, Lowrie takes more pitches than Altuve, which will give Schafer more opportunities to steal a base.
"I think as the dust starts to settle, in my mind Jed is probably going to wind up hitting second and we're going to find out where Altuve fits in," Mills said. "He's been swinging so well in the No. 8 hole maybe we'll put him down there. That's pretty nice to have in the eight-hole because now you're ensuring turning over the lineup, and that's huge."
Buck not quite 100 percent, but ready to go
HOUSTON -- Travis Buck, who hadn't played since straining his hamstring Wednesday in Washington, was expected to be available to pinch-hit on Saturday. Buck took batting practice before Saturday's game and appeared to be ready to go.
"I'm slowly but surely getting better," he said. "There was still some discomfort when I took batting practice [Friday] and I expect to be available. I can't take much more sitting around or not being able to do anything. I was kind of a mess in the dugout. It's not a good feeling knowing you can't help your teammates."
Buck, a left-handed hitter, said that if he does get an at-bat and puts the ball in play, he'll have to be mindful that his hamstring is not 100 percent. That, he says, could be difficult.
"Your instincts take over and you feel like you can do anything, so technically you have to play a little smart," he said. "It's going to be tough to pull it back. But I should be able to put together a productive at-bat and swing with no restrictions."