Injuries crimping Astros' style as of late
Bourn among a handful of players sidelined with some ailment
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Houston Astros aren't quite yet resembling a M*A*S*H* unit, but nagging injuries seem to be piling up as the exhibition season creeps toward the halfway point.
Michael Bourn was left off the travel roster on Sunday prior to the Astros' trip to Port St. Lucie, Fla. One day earlier, the center fielder felt a pinch in his upper back, around the shoulder blade area, and he ended up as a late scratch for the Astros game against the Mets.
General manager Ed Wade categorized the injury as an upper back spasm, and he said the setback wasn't considered a serious issue at this point. Wade also revealed that outfielder Reggie Abercrombie came down with the flu and was scratched from Sunday's game vs. the Mets.
Bourn and Kazuo Matsui, who is slated to fly to Houston for the day to be treated for a recurring hemorrhoid problem, appear to have injuries that shouldn't sideline them for long. But catcher J.R. Towles could miss several games, as he nurses a hamstring strain that he suffered while running to first base during the Astros' game against the Braves on Saturday.
"Towles is probably looking at no field activity for three days," Wade said. The catcher could be cleared to play within five days, but Wade said they'll "play it by ear."
"I don't think it's something that will keep him out a long, long time, but we just have to be careful," manager Cecil Cooper said. "The kid's been playing well. With hamstrings, it can be a major issue, kind of like the oblique. If you play through it, you're going to end up tearing it. We're taking the cautious approach.
"I saw him this morning walking around a little bit. He didn't seem like he was dragging it. It didn't seem like it was pulled. Maybe it's a little tight or sore -- if that's the case, then it could be sooner. You want to be careful."
In the interim, Humberto Quintero can expect to receive about the same amount of playing time he has had so far.
"He'll continue to play pretty much every other day," Cooper said. "Like we've done it -- just kind of flip-flopping it back and forth."
Cooper will also use Brad Ausmus in a few games. Through Saturday, the projected backup catcher had appeared in five of the Astros' 10 spring games.
"Ausmus has had a vacation up to this point," Cooper joked.
The skipper is erring on the side of caution with all of his players who are battling varying degrees of aches and pains. With very little riding on exhibition games, he sees no reason to push a player and possibly harm him down the road when the games start to count in the standings.
"Obviously, it's easier to make a decision like that during spring when you've got so many guys and a lot of options," Cooper said. "During the season, you've got to contemplate the [disabled list] and calling up players. It becomes a little bit more of a challenge.
"I think my philosophy should be like most -- always be cautious. Sometimes, if you have a veteran guy, you'll know how to play that, as opposed to a young kid, you never know what they're going to do -- like Hunter Pence. If you don't shut him down and stop him, he might go wild. We try to use good judgement."
Matsui, who has been dealing with his current condition for much of the spring, hasn't let his setback affect his playing time until now. Cooper is impressed with the second baseman's ability to play through discomfort and used Saturday's game as an example. Matsui played most of that game and persuaded his manager not to remove him early.
"He swung the bat well, he ran well," Cooper said. "I was going to take him out after three innings, but he said, 'No, I want to play some more.' I was very happy for him. He swung and ran well. I'm hopeful he gets through this. That's got to be uncomfortable."
Matsui is expected to be back in uniform on Tuesday.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.