ARLINGTON -- The Astros have essentially been playing with one catcher since J.R. Towles tweaked a muscle on the back of his right leg running the bases on Wednesday. Towles hasn't played since, meaning Carlos Corporan started his sixth game in a row Tuesday.
"[Towles] said he was better, but it was hard to stick him in the lineup because you could lose your catcher," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Ideally for him, he probably won't be able to start until Friday. We'll see how it goes."
Towles said Tuesday he feels his strength is getting better, but it's still painful for him to perform short, quick movements. He feels most of his discomfort when he has to come out of his crouch to field a ball and throw it to a base.
Towles fouled a ball off his left ankle Wednesday and later in the game scored from second base on a single by Michael Bourn, injuring his leg.
"I was talking with [head athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero], and he said maybe because my ankle was hurting at the time, my right side was trying to compensate for the left side," said Towles, who has been treating the area with ice, heat and massage.
Pence not ready to swing, likely out until Friday
ARLINGTON -- Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who hasn't played since Friday because of a sprained left elbow, likely won't return to the lineup until Friday's series opener against the Rays at Minute Maid Park.
Pence showed up at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday unable to swing a bat because of discomfort in the elbow. He said team doctors told him last weekend he would likely miss the Rangers series, and that appears to be the case.
"It's just not ready to swing," he said. "It's close, very close, but I'm not ready. There's really no way other to say I can't really swing. Until I can, I don't know how you can really play. I'm going to wait until it's ready so I can play. I'm going to play hard and play good."
With the Astros having a day off Thursday, manager Brad Mills said it would probably be best for Pence to be held out of the lineup until Friday. Pence leads the club in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
"Unless all of a sudden he shows up and he's able to swing and everything's fine," Mills said. "I don't see that happening after talking with him today and how sore he was today."
The good news for Pence is doctors have told him he can't do anymore damage to the elbow. An MRI performed on Sunday showed no tears or ligament damage.
Lee shakes off slow start, seeks power stroke
ARLINGTON -- Astros slugger Carlos Lee has brushed off his second consecutive slow start at the plate, entering Tuesday's game against the Rangers batting .313 since May 1. He dug himself a hole by hitting .194 in April but hit .316 in May and was at .310 in June through Monday.
"This game is hard to explain," he said. "I was talking to Michael Bourn a few days ago and I said, 'What's the difference between now and April?' In Spring Training, we get plenty of at-bats and work hard and do everything to prepare yourself for the season.
"It's been two years in a row. I don't know if I'm thinking about it or pressing myself to start good or trying to do too much. Right now, I feel where I need to be. I'm seeing the ball good. I've been hitting a lot of balls hard. I'm hitting line drives. I can't explain why I can't get the ball in the air."
Lee, who has averaged 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs per season in his career, has only five home runs at nearly the midpoint of the season. But he feels confident the home runs will come.
"I think I'm still cutting off the swing just a tad and instead of getting the carry on the ball and the ball's staying low," he said. "It's funny how it works. I could come and hit plenty of them in one month and get right back on track."
Astros manager Brad Mills is pleased Lee is putting better swings on balls.
"I just think with the type of hitter that he is, if he continues to have good swings, he'll hit some home runs," Mills said.
Bourgeois still looking for rhythm at plate
ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Jason Bourgeois said he is still trying to find his groove at the plate after missing 25 games with a strained left oblique.
Bourgeois has started all four games of the current road trip but started two of the Astros' previous 10 games since he returned to action on June 5 against the Padres.
"You can't take baseball off," Bourgeois said. "It's a game of repetition. I feel like I'm close, but I don't feel like I'm there."
Bourgeois was hitting .407 before the injury in May and is now hitting .345 with 17 steals. The speedy outfielder notched a hit in all six games he played in May, including three multihit games.
"I think I was getting maybe two hits a game for a week and a half straight," Bourgeois said. "I knew that wasn't going to last forever. I sure hate I got hurt, but it's one of those things. I've just got to get back to it and make the adjustments along the way."
He said he talked to Michael Bourn and a few teammates on Tuesday about making minor plate adjustments, including not pulling off the ball. Bourgeois has a hit in four of his last five games, but only one multihit game in that span.
"We're at a level now where it's all about the little things," he said. "It's not the whole big picture. So I make those few adjustments, and hopefully I can feel like I did before I got hurt."
Bourgeois made his fourth straight start in right field on Tuesday night while Hunter Pence nursed a sprained left elbow. Pence hasn't played since injuring his elbow on Friday night against the Dodgers.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to get out here and play," Bourgeois said. "I know that once Hunt gets back, he's going to be playing every day. We need his bat. He's a big part of our lineup. I hope it's a quick recovery for him."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.