CINCINNATI -- Astros manager Brad Mills said the club is looking forward to returning home, especially after spending 13 of the past 16 games away from Minute Maid Park.
"Last time we were home it's like we were just stopping by," said Mills of a brief three-game homestand against the Dodgers.
Following Sunday's game in Cincinnati, Houston heads home to begin three-game series against the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins.
The homestand kicks off with a 50th Anniversary celebration when former Astros outfielder Richard Hidalgo throws out a ceremonial first pitch prior to the series opener against New York. Hidalgo will also sign autographs at Minute Maid Park before the game.
Pomp and circumstance aside, the road-weary Astros are eager to return to Houston.
"It'll be real nice to get back home, especially for a long homestand," Mills said.
Lyles optioned after start vs. Reds
CINCINNATI -- Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City following his start on Sunday against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Infielder Marwin Gonzalez was reinstated from the paternity list and will rejoin the club in Houston on Monday.
Lyles, who was recalled from Triple-A prior to Sunday's game, earned a no-decision, allowing three runs and four hits in six innings in the Astros' 6-5 loss. Lyles was helping fill a void in the Astros' starting rotation after right-hander Kyle Weiland was placed on the disabled list on Friday.
The Astros have a day off on Thursday so they will not need another starter until Tuesday, May 8, at which time they'll need to make another roster move. Weiland, on the DL retroactive to April 25, is eligible to be reinstated on May 10.
Lee's ankle making steady improvement
CINCINNATI -- Astros first baseman Carlos Lee said following Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Reds that his sprained left ankle is improving, and that he hopes to return next week. Lee has not played since spraining the ankle in the first inning of Friday's game.
"It's not my call, but I hope to give it a shot," said Lee, who still had his ankle heavily wrapped on Sunday. "It's feeling better. Still a little sore. I won't know for sure until I get in for treatment [Monday] and move around a little bit."
Astros manager Brad Mills said Lee is probably one or two days away from getting back on the playing field. Lee was not available to pinch-hit Sunday, Mills said.
Lee sprained his ankle while trying to field a low throw from third baseman Chris Johnson on a slow roller from Reds leadoff batter Zack Cozart. X-rays taken Friday were negative, and Lee has been receiving daily treatment on his ankle.
Prior to Sunday's game, Mills said right-handed reliever Rhiner Cruz, who hasn't pitched since Monday due to a sore right ankle, is improving. Cruz could be available when the Astros return home on Monday to begin a series against the Mets.
Bixler optioned to Triple-A
CINCINNATI -- Brian Bixler's stay in the Major Leagues was brief. The Astros infielder was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Sunday's starting pitcher, Jordan Lyles, who's filling a void in the rotation with Kyle Weiland on the disabled list.
Bixler was recalled from Triple-A on Friday when Marwin Gonzalez was placed on the paternity list, which per Major League policy is a maximum of three days.
Astros manager Brad Mills said on Friday that he liked that Bixler can play a multitude of positions, and was impressed how Bixler dealt with being sent to Triple-A after making the team out of Spring Training.
"He can do it all," Mills said. "It's nice to see him get rewarded for going down there with a great attitude. He's a great kid."
In 12 games at Oklahoma City, Bixler hit .423 with two home runs and four RBIs. He had three doubles, a triple and a .483 on-base percentage.
Since being recalled on Friday, Bixler made one plate appearance for the Astros, popping out to short in the eighth inning on Saturday.
The Astros will need to make another roster move on Monday if Gonzalez returns from the paternity list as expected. Houston currently is carrying 13 pitchers.
• The sensational play made by Reds shortstop Zack Cozart on a hard-hit grounder by J.D. Martinez on Saturday was still a topic of conversation in the Astros clubhouse on Sunday. While it epitomized a frustrating afternoon for Houston, Astros manager Brad Mills tipped his cap.
"You're not going to see a better play at shortstop than the one Cozart made yesterday."
• Voting for the 2012 All-Star Game began on Friday in all Major League ballparks. Voting will commence at Minute Maid Park on Monday, when the Astros begin a nine-game, 10-day homestand. From Sunday, July 1, to Thursday, July 5, fans can return to MLB.com and cast their 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster.
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.