Backe on track to return to Astros
Final rehab start gives indication righty will soon be back
HOUSTON -- Brandon Backe made his sixth and final rehab start for Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday, and although the results weren't as solid as his past starts, he has a good chance to rejoin the Astros' rotation at some point during the upcoming road trip.
Backe allowed four runs on 11 hits over a 96-pitch, six-inning start, walking one and striking out three in a loss to Colorado Springs. The right-hander said he felt just as good as he did in his previous five outings, but that the rainy conditions may have had something to do with the subpar results.
"Unfortunately, it rained pretty much the whole time I was out there," Backe said. "Conditions of the mound weren't very good. I was more worried about not injuring myself in the last rehab start than actually pitching.
"I don't think the start in itself actually made me more prepared to be in the rotation here, but with that said, at least I got another six innings and 100 pitches under my belt. I'll be ready. I'm just ready to see some action in the big leagues again."
Following Sunday's game, manager Cecil Cooper said Backe will "pitch somewhere on this road trip, but I don't know exactly when or where. We've got to determine that. But we will activate him [from the disabled list] at some point."
Cooper then added that he hasn't decided if Backe will join the rotation or the bullpen. Earlier that day, Cooper indicated Backe would likely be a starter.
Backe has not been given any indication from the coaching staff as to when he'll pitch or in what capacity, but the right-hander is assuming he'll start.
"I'm thinking just because I went down there [to the Minor Leagues] and threw like I was a starter. ... I got to 100 pitches, but I guess that doesn't mean much," Backe said. "I feel like I'm going to be in the rotation. I don't know where or when. I don't even know if they know. Until they know what's going on and they tell me. ... I think they have until Tuesday to make a decision, so it'll be a couple of days before I find out. Hopefully by [Monday], they'll know."
Backe would not be ready to pitch until Thursday, but because that is an off-day, the earliest he would appear would be Friday in Pittsburgh. Friday would be Mike Hampton's day to pitch, assuming everyone stays on a regular-rest schedule.
"We'll use the time to try to make the right decision as to what the role will be going forward," general manager Ed Wade said. "We're open-minded to any opportunity right now. We'll have to wait and see what our needs are and where he fits in."
The Astros game notes had Wednesday's starter listed as TBA on Sunday, but after the game, Cooper announced Felipe Paulino would be making that start.
In other disabled list news, closer Jose Valverde sought and received a second opinion from a physician in Miami regarding the condition of his right calf. An examination confirmed the Astros' original diagnosis that the discomfort Valverde is currently experiencing is simply part of the healing process.
"We expect him to start running in the next couple of days," Wade said. "Once he starts running we can progress forward. He's still weeks away from him being able to pitch in a game at the big league level."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.