HOUSTON -- Astros starter Bud Norris was in for a surprise Tuesday when he walked onto the field with his teammates to stretch before batting practice. He saw his 1996 gray Acura on the warning track in front of Tal's Hill in center field.
"It's free advertising," reliever Tim Byrdak joked. "Bud's been trying to sell it for some time now. The market has been low for a while so we thought we would give him some free publicity."
Norris is planning to sell the car and his teammates jokingly thought it would be a good idea to surprise Norris by placing it there. The front windshield featured a shaving cream bull's-eye and on the back windshield the car had '$100' inscribed in shaving cream. A few teammates tried to hit the car during batting practice but they were unsuccessful and the car was moved.
"We wanted to keep it out there and have him defend the car during batting practice," Byrdak joked. "But with safety issues we decided to put it in."
Norris, who is still considered a rookie, was a good sport about the ribbing.
"I thought it was funny," Norris said. "I thought it was really good. I've been talking about getting a new car, and I haven't pulled the trigger yet. Hopefully I'll get one here soon."
Moehler leaves with strained groin
HOUSTON -- Astros starting pitcher Brian Moehler left Wednesday night's game against the Pirates after just three innings because of a strained right groin. Houston was leading 3-0.
Moehler, who was making his eighth start of the season after taking Bud Norris' spot in the rotation, held the Pirates to three hits, one walk and had struck out three batters. He threw 52 pitches in his shortest start since lasting only 2 2/3 innings on May 29 at Cincinnati.
Moehler first appeared to have trouble with the groin after throwing his 35th pitch of the game, which came with one out in the third inning with Andrew McCutchen at the plate. Manager Brad Mills and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero came to the mound, and Moehler stayed in the game after throwing warm-up pitches.
The veteran right-hander, who was 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA entering the game, was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his previous six starts. The Astros were 4-2 in those games.
Blum undergoes arthroscopic surgery
HOUSTON -- Infielder Geoff Blum underwent arthroscopic surgery at Texas Orthopedic Hospital on Wednesday morning to remove three loose bodies from his right elbow.
The surgery was successful and Blum is expected to miss two to four weeks. He will begin range of motion activities in three days.
Blum was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Sunday after he experienced swelling and discomfort in his elbow following Thursday's game against the Padres which he started at shortstop.
The Astros recalled outfielder Jason Bourgeois from Triple-A Round Rock to replace Blum, who is hitting .241 in 59 games this season including 31 starts. He is second in the Major Leagues with seven pinch-hit RBIs.
Infielders Angel Sanchez and Oswaldo Navarro are expected to split the time at shortstop while Blum is out.
Keppinger, Lyon greet children before game
HOUSTON -- Jeff Keppinger and Brandon Lyon were among the Astros players who met with a group of 50 children prior to Wednesday's game.
The kids, who represented CAN DO (Community and Neighborhood Drug Offensive), received round-trip transportation to the game, got to meet the players and received free tickets, food, beverages and souvenirs. CAN DO works with high-risk children ages 5-12 by using a curriculum to help promote self esteem and help children make the right choices.
The goal of the CAN DO program is to provide community-based, comprehensive and coordinated activities to increase the students' life skills, reduce school dropouts and prevent the involvement of youth in gangs, tobacco, drug use and other illegal activities in Houston and surrounding communities.
The event is part of Major League Baseball Players Trust's "Buses for Baseball" program, which provides transportations and personal greetings for more than 1,500 underprivileged children attending Major League Baseball games as invited guests of their big league heroes.
Berkman looks to build off game
HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman is the first to say that the Astros haven't performed up to expectations this season. But Tuesday's game gave fans an idea what the club is capable of this season. Berkman and left fielder Carlos Lee both homered to lead the Astros to a 6-2 win. It was only the second game that the duo has homered in the same game.
"Given everyone's track record it's what you expect coming into this year," Berkman said of the Astros' success at the plate last night. "Not that you expected it every night but you certainly expected people to have those kind of games. It's been a struggle. It's a mystery, which is frustrating."
Astros manager Brad Mills said he really liked Berkman's at-bats against the Pirates. He saw a total of 23 pitches in his four appearances at the plate.
Berkman also said that he's felt comfortable at the plate despite his numbers down from his typical averages.
"If we hit anywhere close to what we've done the rest of the season then we're going to win a lot more games in the second half," Berkman said.
Daigle looking to get time
HOUSTON -- Although reliever Casey Daigle has been with the club since the Astros road trip in Milwaukee, he hasn't pitched in a game yet. Despite not seeing any time on the mound, Daigle has done his best to prepare himself for when that outing will come. He came in on the off-day to get some work done.
"If you have the right mindset it's not tough," Daigle said. "I think it can get tough sitting that many days, but I feel fresh and I feel where I need to be."
The Astros recalled Daigle on June 30 when Jeff Fulchino went on the disabled list. The Astros had just sent him back to Triple-A on June 22, making his stint in Round Rock very brief.
Daigle said he realizes how the game works and knows he will get into the game during certain situations.
"I would love to be in that role but right now I'm not in that role," Daigle said. "I have to earn that role to pitch in those in innings and I understand that."
Astros sign Dominican free agent
HOUSTON -- General manager Ed Wade announced Tuesday that the Astros signed 16-year old Dominican free agent outfielder Ariel Ovando to a 2011 Minor League contract. He signed for a bonus reportedly between $2.6 to $2.8 million. Astros special assistant to the general manager Felix Francisco signed Ovando.
Ovando will turn 17 on Sept. 15 and is expected to spend this season at the Astros' Latin American complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. He will then participate in the instructional league in Kissimmee, Fla., in September.
"We're extremely excited to get Ariel into the Astros' organization," Wade said. "Felix [Francisco] did a lot of work on this kid and we also were able to have some of our other evaluators scout him over the past several months. Ariel profiles as a middle of the order power hitter with excellent defensive skills and should move quickly through the Minor League system."
Astros manager Brad Mills said ace Roy Oswalt will start the first game after the All-Star break, July 16 at Pittsburgh. ... Right-hander Felipe Paulino, on the disabled list since June 21 with right shoulder tendinitis, will throw live batting practice later this week. If all goes well, he will return to the rotation July 20 at Chicago. ... Right-hander Jeff Fulchino, on the disabled list since June 29 with right elbow tendinitis, received another cortisone shot Wednesday and will take a few days before resuming his throwing program. ... Triple-A Round Rock pitcher Josh Banks has been added to the Pacific Coast League All-Star roster, replacing teammate Brian Bogusevic, who will miss the game due to a minor foot injury. The game is July 14 at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. Steve Gartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.