SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain's perfect game also nearly marked the pitching debut for Astros infielder Matt Downs.

Downs, the former Giant, was warming up in the bullpen in the eighth inning Wednesday night and would have come in to pitch had reliever Xavier Cedeno gotten his pitch count past 45. Cedeno threw 40 pitches over three scoreless innings.

Astros outfielder Brian Bogusevic, who was drafted as a pitcher before being moved to the outfield four years ago, pitched an inning June 7 against the Cardinals in his first action on the mound in the Major Leagues.

"I didn't want to bring Downs in like that, but at the same time you had to start protecting the bullpen," manager Brad Mills said.

The versatile Downs, who started at first base Thursday and homered in his first at-bat, can play just about any position on the field and is Mills' emergency catcher. He even caught briefly in the bullpen this spring to get familiar with the role.

Mills wants Astros to put perfecto behind them

SAN FRANCISCO -- Astros manager Brad Mills wasn't in a mood Thursday afternoon to do too much reflecting on his club being the victim of the 22nd perfect game in Major League history.

Less than 16 hours after Matt Cain struck out 14 batters to make history with the first perfect game in Giants history, the Astros were going about business as usual. And that's the way Mills wanted his team to move on.

"I don't go back and look at the history or significance of it," he said. "That's probably too much for me to do, but at the same time you still appreciate what he did because you know how tough it is. That's far enough for me to go."

Mills is pleased to see that baseball appears to be in the midst of an era where pitching dominates. There have already been five no-hitters thrown this season and games are lower scoring than they were only three or four years earlier.

"I think we're getting back to more pitching, there's no doubt," Mills said. "From my point of view, that's a great place to be. The game is about good pitching and defense, and those are fun games to watch and manage. There are people who like runs to be scored, but I have an appreciation of good pitching and good defense."

Worth noting

• Astros first baseman Carlos Lee, who's been on the disabled list since June 2 with a strained left hamstring, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday night for Double-A Corpus Christi at Frisco. Lee will serve as the designated hitter Thursday and play the field Friday and Saturday. He could be activated Sunday.

• Right-hander Bud Norris, who left Tuesday's game with a sprained left knee, threw his routine bullpen Thursday, but the Astros haven't made a decision yet on whether he'll be able to start against the Rangers on Sunday.