KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer is expected to be out of action at least a couple of more days to give the nerve injury in his left hand more time to heal. An examination by a hand specialist in Atlanta on Tuesday showed no major damage to the hand, which Schafer injured March 18 making a diving catch.
"For a couple of days, I'm just going to relax and let it settle down a little bit," Schafer said. "They said everything should be good. They said nothing was seriously wrong and that I just needed a little bit of rest. We'll be good to go here shortly. The main goal is to be ready on [Opening Day on April 6]. Obviously, I'd like to get some at-bats down here, and hopefully I can before the season starts."
Schafer has been limited to only 23 at-bats this spring, but has nine hits. Schafer took batting practice over the weekend, but admits he did too much too soon.
"The one day if felt really good and it was a little sore the next day, and the next day after that it was sore once again," he said. "I just need to give it a little time. You have to let that nerve calm down and I'll be good."
Schafer, acquired from the Braves as part of the Michael Bourn deal a year ago, is pegged as the Astros' starter in center field.
Lowrie sprains thumb on dive into second
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie suffered a sprained right thumb diving into second base in the third inning of Wednesday's game against the Marlins at Osceola County Stadium. It's unclear how long he'll be out of action.
Lowrie, who has been hampered by injuries in his career, led off the third inning with a single and was picked off on a throw from the pitcher. Lowrie dived back into the bag, but jammed his thumb into Marlins second baseman Omar Infante, who blocked the base as he reached for the throw.
"Hopefully it's ice it a couple of days and I'm back out there," Lowrie said. "I'm going to go with that until they tell me otherwise. It's stupid with five days left in Spring Training. I don't think there's any reason to block a base at any time, particularly at this time. I don't think he's trying to hurt me, but he's a middle infielder. Stupid injuries like this happen when you block bases. Hopefully it's nothing."
Infante said he wasn't intentionally blocking the base.
"I could see the throw was away, but I don't know what happened," Infante said. "I feel bad. I couldn't do anything [to avoid it]."
Lowrie acknowledged the throw took Infante up the line a little bit, but he was caught off-guard when he went back to the base and collided with the player.
"When you're expecting the base to be three feet further away and there's a body there instead, that's how things get jammed," Lowrie said.
Astros' bullpen mix remains in flux
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- More than any other position, the Astros have several tough choices to make in the bullpen, which remains unsettled. They still have to decide whether they want to carry one or two left-handers, and how important it will be to have a pitcher able to work in long relief.
Lucas Harrell and Henry Sosa, both of whom joined the club a year ago, are still in camp and are candidates to win a bullpen spot as a long reliever. They're both seen as potential starting pitchers, but one could make the bullpen as a spot starter/long reliever this year.
Harrell started Wednesday and held the Marlins to three hits and no earned runs in five strong innings.
"With a club like ours with a lot of young players, you have to have somebody capable of pitching three or four innings in a game where the starter doesn't last long," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It's an important role. You look at the way our bullpen is set up right now, there's a lot of guys that pitch, generally speaking, one inning, and we need guys that can pitch more than one inning."
Astros manager Brad Mills is hopeful his starters can give him enough innings, but understands the importance of the long relief role.
"How important? You have to see how many innings our starters are giving and if a guy like that is extremely necessary," he said. "If we seem to have a starter or two struggle in back-to-back games, we get in situations it makes it a little bit tougher."
Astros introduce tailgating events for fans
Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane unveiled on Wednesday plans for a pair of special tailgating events on June 1-2 which is designed to improve fans' game experience and determine the possibility of future tailgating events at Minute Maid Park.
The first event will focus on teens aged 13-18, where food and beverages will be provided, though attending fans are encouraged to bring their own food as well.
The next day, an event geared toward young adults will be hosted in Lot C on Texas Avenue. A tented area will be marked off and food and beverages will be provided to fans. Fans for this event are also welcome to bring food from home. Further details regarding the events will be announced soon.
"We listened to the fans and a majority was in favor of tailgating for Astros games," said Crane. "However, there are fans who have voiced concerns, so we want to learn throughout the process. Following the season, we will make a decision on how tailgating will be handled moving forward."
The tailgating days are two additional events that join other fan-friendly initiatives Crane introduced earlier in the year. Other plans include reduced ticket pricing in certain areas of Minute Maid Park and allowing fans to bring their own food and water into the ballpark.