ARLINGTON -- With the Astros playing their final road series of the season against an American League team, Carlos Lee will be at designated hitter for all three games against the Rangers. Lee was the DH for the Astros' series in Toronto last month.

The Astros had all four of their healthy outfielders in the lineup Tuesday, with Lee at designated hitter, Jason Michaels in left field, Michael Bourn in center and Jason Bourgeois in right. Hunter Pence is nursing a sprained elbow and was out of the lineup Tuesday.

"We have all of our outfielders in there without Hunter, which makes us think," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Having the DH and being in the American League [park], there's not a whole lot of substitutions that we're going to be able to make because of that. At the same time, when you don't have the backup outfielders, it makes things a little bit trying."

If the Astros get in a bind, utility infielder Matt Downs has some experience in the outfield and could play left field if necessary.

Pence feels better, plans to return Tuesday

ARLINGTON -- Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who missed his third consecutive game Monday with a sprained left elbow, is expected to return to the lineup in Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

Pence, who suffered the injury Friday in Los Angeles, felt so encouraged Monday that he was able to take some swings in the batting cage. He was able to straighten out his elbow for the first time since injuring it trying to slide into first base.

"It feels good," Pence said. "From where I was, the inflammation was in there and we detected what the problem was. It's like a sprained ankle on the elbow. I know it's feeling pretty good and I'm pretty optimistic about getting back soon."

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Pence entered Monday tied for fourth in the National League with 51 RBIs, tied for second with 93 hits and ranked fourth with a .321 batting average. Astros manager Brad Mills said he expects Pence to be in the lineup Tuesday.

"He wants to play, he wants to get in there, and the doctors and trainers feel that one more day will be extremely beneficial for him," Mills said Monday. "That's what we're going to do, is to get him one more day. Hopefully he can get in there tomorrow."

Mills tinkers with top of Astros' lineup

ARLINGTON -- Manager Brad Mills said it can be tricky to decide where to place speedsters Jason Bourgeois and Michael Bourn in the lineup.

Mills elected to lead off with Bourgeois and have Bourn hit immediately behind him Monday against the Rangers. It's the third time this season Bourgeois and Bourn have hit in that order and the ninth time Bourgeois has started a game as the leadoff hitter this year.

Mills said Bourgeois' .455 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers made his choice easier with Derek Holland on the mound.

"I think if he's on, that's going to open up some holes for Bourn a little bit," Mills said. "[Bourn] can utilize his game a little bit, whether it's going to be bunting or hitting the ball through those holes."

Bourn said he doesn't mind where he's slotted in the lineup and doesn't want to change his mentality in the two-hole, but he will be more mindful of Bourgeois' speed if he gets on base.

"I won't swing early if they're going to let him run," Bourn said.

Mills said sometimes rotating players to a new spot in the lineup can create issues.

"But not with these two guys," he said. "There's one right-handed, one left-handed [batter]. They complement each other so well."

Worth noting

• Astros catcher J.R. Towles, who hasn't played since June 15 because of soreness in his legs, was unavailable Monday, except for an emergency situation.

• The Astros have signed 28 of their picks from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, including eight of their top 10 selections.