Manzella hopes life on road treats him well
Rookie shortstop soaking in experiences in the Majors
ST. LOUIS -- Rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella played in his first official road game in the Major Leagues on Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
A third-round pick in 2005, the infielder played in five games during the 2009 season -- all in Houston at Minute Maid Park in April.
Through his first four games, Manzella was hitting .286 (four hits in 14 at bats) with one RBI, which he collected on Saturday night against the Phillies.
"So far it's been going good, just trying to get my feet under me, trying to get as much information as I can, especially this first time through the league," Manzella said of his first week as a regular in the Majors. "I don't really know hitters that well. I don't really know pitchers that well. There's only so much you can get off film. So as far as positioning, defensive positioning, sight lines in the new stadiums, stuff like that -- that's the stuff I'll be battling probably for the first half of the year."
Brad Mills, the first-year Astros manager, said Manzella has done a good job making the adjustments that rookies need to make.
"He's getting experience at the plate. and he's going to be gaining experience all year long at the plate and what he can and can't do and he's done a very good job defensively," Mills said. "He's still learning the hitters as we go, but he's made adjustments defensively with the hitters, I think almost each inning as you go along, and that's what you need to do."
Little going right for Mills early on
ST. LOUIS -- Brad Mills is the 19th manager in the history of the Houston Astros, and his 0-7 record out of the gate following Monday's 5-0 loss in the road opener at Busch Stadium in St. Louis stands out among his predecessors.
The 2010 Astros have already drawn comparisons to the 1983 squad that lost the first nine games of the season before collecting their first victory.
That club, which finished with an 85-77 record, was led by manager Bob Lillis, who took over at the end of the previous season and went 17-17 down the stretch. Lillis went 276-261 in his four seasons.
The lowest winning percentage for an Astros manager was .308 (4-9) as Dave Clark managed the final 13 games of last season after Cecil Cooper was let go. Clark is now Houston's third-base coach.
The winningest manager in Astros history is Bill Virdon, who won 544 games games and lost 522 during his eight seasons, which is the most that anyone has managed the Astros.
The 53-year-old Mills has more than 30 years of experience in professional baseball, including 11 years as a Minor League manager and 11 seasons as a Major League coach.
Mills: No timetable for Berkman's return
ST. LOUIS -- First-year Houston Astros manager Brad Mills said before Monday's game against the Cardinals that he's not sure when first baseman Lance Berkman will return from the disabled list after having arthroscopic knee surgery in March.
"There is no timetable set forth at all," Mills said. "When he does finally come back, we want him to be 100 percent to where he's able to play and he's ready to play every day -- instead of maybe play for a week and then he's so sore he's got to sit out four or five days or another week, or go on the DL another 15. We don't want that to happen. When he comes back, we want him to be ready."
Berkman, who is not with the team on the six-game road trip to St. Louis and Chicago, told MLB.com on Sunday that he is hopeful he can return to action when the Astros return to Minute Maid Park on April 20.
Mills wants Berkman, who hit .274 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs a year ago, to come back and stay in the lineup.
"The thing is, some days he comes in and he feels real good, and then they try to increase the activity -- and all of a sudden, it's not there," Mills said. "So I think what we're looking for is maybe to get a little stability in that process and in his program to where he feels a little bit more comfortable to get through it."
Mills shuffles order with Manzella in two-hole
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Brad Mills made a lineup switch before Monday's game against the Cardinals. He originally had third baseman Pedro Feliz in the No. 3 spot and right fielder Hunter Pence in the sixth spot, but later switched those two in the order.
Pence has just two hits in 21 at-bats this season, and he was kept out of the starting lineup for the first time of the season on Sunday against the Phillies.
The bigger move with the lineup may have been moving rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella to the No. 2 spot -- he hit eighth in three games and seventh in one -- for the first time, with second baseman Kazuo Matsui moving down in the order to seventh.
"We're gonna bat Tommy second and move Kaz down, just to see if we can get some things moving and take advantage of having Kaz, a left-handed hitter, down lower in the order," Mills said.
Manzella, who is hitting .286 (4-for-14) through his first four games, said that's the spot in the lineup he's primarily occupied during his time in the Minors.
"At this point, it's so early in the season and it's my first year -- I'm just doing whatever they tell me to do and try to execute it as best as I can," Manzella said. "The two-hole is a very comfortable position for me. That's pretty much the spot I've hit for the last seven years. It's not an unfamiliar spot for me. It's probably my most comfortable -- no, it's definitely my most comfortable spot in the lineup. When you get to this level, there are so many good levels that you have to adjust to whatever spot you're going to be in every day."
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.