ST. PETERSBURG -- A familiar face was in the Astros' clubhouse on Sunday. Veteran relief pitcher Matt Albers was back with his teammates so he could make the flight home to Houston after the series finale against the Rays.
Albers, who has been on the disabled list since April 22 with right shoulder tendinitis, has been rehabbing at the team's Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., for the past several weeks and recently began making significant progress.
"I've been throwing," he said. "This whole last week I've been getting out to 100 feet and feeling a lot better and letting it go pretty good. I think now it's a matter of building up to be able to get into games. I'm still not quite there, but feeling a lot better."
Albers will continue his rehab in Houston this week and plans to start throwing in the bullpen in anticipation of going on a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I don't know the exact dates," he said. "I'm going to go on how I feel. It's definitely improving and getting closer, which is a good sign."
The Astros have being sending players who are on the DL to Kissimmee this year to focus on rehab. Albers was there with Anthony Bass, who has been out since May 11 with a right intercostal strain. Bass recently left to begin a rehab assignment at Class A Quad Cities.
"I was just trying to stay optimistic and hope that it would start getting better quicker, and it just didn't," Albers said. "I came to Kissimmee and it didn't feel great the first couple of weeks I was down there playing catch. This last week it's really improved and feeling better, and basically I had to back off a little bit, but it's starting to get better now."
Slumping Singleton sits as Grossman returns
ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Astros facing lefty Erik Bedard on Sunday, manager Bo Porter took the opportunity to give struggling slugger Jon Singleton, a left-handed hitter, the day off. Singleton entered Sunday in a 2-for-20 drought.
Jesus Guzman started at first base in place of Singleton, who was taking what manager Bo Porter called a "mental day."
"With it being a lefty, kind of give him a day to take a mental break and tomorrow being an off-day and get ready to go," Porter said. "Like I told him, you have an off-day until the game is hanging in the balance, so be ready."
Meanwhile, Robbie Grossman returned to the lineup Sunday after sitting out the first three games of the series. Grossman was in an 0-for-17 drought and had not played since going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored on Wednesday in Washington.
"He's worked extremely hard in the cage with some early hitting with [hitting coaches] John Mallee and Ralph Dickenson," Porter said. "He's watched a lot of video from this year and last year, and I felt like he needed to kind of take a step away and hopefully we can get the Robbie Grossman back that we had the second half of last year."
Grossman and Singleton were not the only Astros players who began Sunday in funks at the plate. Chris Carter (0-for-19), Matt Dominguez (0-for-12) and Dexter Fowler (0-for-12) were also struggling. Fowler homered on the first pitch Sunday.
"What you hope is the time away clears your mind of a lot of the negatives that could take place when you're not swinging the bat well and that they're able to get back into the batter's box and get back on the field with a clear mind," Porter said.
Astros' hustle on basepaths not unnoticed
ST. PETERSBURG -- Had it not been for Jose Altuve's infield single in the fourth inning on Saturday, the Astros may have been the victim of their second no-hitter in three seasons. Altuve's hit was the only one the Astros managed in an 8-0 loss.
But the play that stood out to Astros manager Bo Porter came in the ninth inning, when Altuve flied out to center field and hustled on that play, too. Porter said Altuve was nearing second base when Desmond Jennings caught the ball.
"It means you're playing the game the right way, the way it's supposed to be played, and when you play the game the way it's supposed to be played and the experience level and the talent level get to the point where it's like completely connected," Porter said.
Porter patted Altuve on the back when he came in the dugout and reminded some of the players around him how the game was supposed to be played.
"Those are valuable teachable moments," Porter said. "The other night when we lost the game, Dexter Fowler was on first base with two outs. There was a fly ball to the outfielder and he caught the ball, and [Fowler] was around third base. I commended him. I'm not commending him by saying, 'Good job.' I'm commending the way he plays the game. It doesn't go unnoticed."