PITTSBURGH -- Unless Justin Maxwell has a huge September, fellow outfielder J.D. Martinez is going to end up leading the Astros in RBIs this year despite spending nearly a month at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Martinez was among four players called up to join the team Tuesday at PNC Park.
Martinez was the Astros' starting left fielder and hit .235 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs before being sent down on Aug. 9. Martinez played in 23 games for the RedHawks and hit .233 with six doubles and four RBIs in 23 games and said he worked on simplifying his swing with Triple-A hitting coach Leon Roberts.
"We just worked on simplifying everything, trying to get back to what made me good and what made me effective -- what parts of my swing used to stand out," Martinez said. "We watched a lot of film. He gave me his advice. I listened to it. We tried some things. Some things worked. Some didn't. Here I am now."
Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco had Martinez for a couple of weeks before DeFrancesco was promoted, and he said the key for Martinez is trying to eliminate some of the extra movement in his stride and his hands.
"Sometimes the fastball's on top of him and he just can't react as quick," DeFrancesco said.
Keuchel's return will let Astros rest young hurlers
PITTSBURGH -- The return of left-hander Dallas Keuchel following a brief stint at Triple-A Oklahoma City will mean the Astros are going to go with a six-man pitching rotation for the rest of the season, which will help limit the innings of right-handers Jordan Lyles and Lucas Harrell.
Keuchel, who threw three innings Monday in Oklahoma City's season finale, will start for the Astros on Monday at home against the Cubs. He will be available to work out of the bullpen and could get an inning Friday in Cincinnati.
"The overall plan is to give these guys an extra day with a day off toward the end of the season," interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "We have a lot of young arms we don't want to get overworked with Jordan and Harrell. Bud [Norris] has been a horse all year, and we want to make sure at the end of the year we have a chance to evaluate all these pitchers to see who's in line at the end of the season."
Lyles entered his start Tuesday against the Pirates with 154 1/3 combined innings this year between the Astros (113 2/3) and Triple-A Oklahoma City (40 2/3). His career high innings pitched in pro ball is 158 2/3 in 2010 at Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Corpus Christi.
Harrell, meanwhile, has pitched a career-high 165 frames this year. His previous high workload came in 2010 with 161 2/3 innings combined between Triple-A Charlotte and the White Sox.
Lowrie continues to make progress
PITTSBURGH -- Shortstop Jed Lowrie is close to being ready for game action, but he doesn't have a timetable. Lowrie, out since July 15 with an ankle injury and a nerve injury in his right leg, is taking batting practice, running and able to do side-to-side drills.
"Hopefully soon," Lowrie said. "I guess I don't know an exact date, but what I can say is I'm taking batting practice on the field for a couple of days now and doing a lot of running, and hopefully get into some base running and test it running around the curves in more game-like situations.
"I think everything is progressing really well. I just want to continue to take steps forward and balance getting back as quickly as I can with making sure that I'm not out there thinking about it."
On Monday, interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said Lowrie could be sent on a rehab stint to Double-A Corpus Christi, which opens the Texas League playoffs on Wednesday against Frisco.
"I've heard rumblings about that, and that would be awesome to get down there and play for a few games and get a few at-bats and come back up and hopefully help the team down the stretch," Lowrie said.
Lowrie sounded intrigued by the idea of playing for the Hooks while they're in the playoffs. Ben Orloff is Corpus Christi's starting shortstop.
"I would go down there and do what I can to help," he said. "Those guys have earned that playoff spot, so I'll go down there and try to get my work in and contribute and try not to ruin their plans."
After playing right, Paredes shifts over to left field
PITTSBURGH -- Jimmy Paredes, who has been starting in right field since the Astros called him up a week ago, made his first start in left field Tuesday against the Pirates. The spacious left field at PNC Park will give Paredes plenty of room to roam.
Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco didn't want to play Paredes in left field at Minute Maid Park just yet because of the nuances of the scoreboard, which produces strange caroms and presents other challenges.
"This way he has more ground to cover, and it's not a wall you're going to be afraid of," DeFrancesco said.
Paredes, who played for much of this season at second base in the Minor Leagues before the Astros decided to move him to the outfield, could still wind up in center field by the end of the season.
"We want him to get comfortable and make sure ground balls are fielded the right way and that there's no extra stress on the kid," DeFrancesco said. "Moving around year after year kind of gets overwhelming at times, so we're just going to try to make him comfortable."