HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie is pleased with the progress of his right knee and was happy to be able to play back-to-back nine-inning games Tuesday and Wednesday in St. Louis without having any issues.

Lowrie was out of the lineup for Thursday's series finale at the recommendation of the training staff as the shortstop continues to build up strength in his legs after missing 52 games with an injury to his right ankle and leg. The Astros are taking it slow with Lowrie to make sure they don't jeopardize his health.

"My knee feels 100 percent," Lowrie said. "My knee feels great. I think it's a matter of getting into shape where I can play every day. That's something that, in my estimation and from what the doctors and the training staff have told me, is completely expected."

Lowrie continues to wear a brace on the knee, which is there to provide him comfort and support. By the time Spring Training rolls around next year, he'll be brace-free. The immediate goal for Lowrie is to be strong enough to play the final few games of the season without a day off.

"I'm still trying to get back into shape and hopefully within the next couple of weeks, I can play every day," he said.

Lowrie was having a solid first season with the Astros before he was injured July 14 in San Francisco. He's hit safely in five of the six games in which he's had an at-bat since returning from the disabled list and entered Friday hitting .252 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs.

Ausmus withdraws after managerial interview

HOUSTON -- Former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus confirmed in a text message to MLB.com that he interviewed for the Astros managerial position, but withdrew his name from consideration.

"I spoke with the Astros about the managerial position," Ausmus said in the text. "Had great meetings with [owner Jim] Crane and [general manager] Jeff Luhnow. Enjoyed discussing the possibility of rejoining the organization. But after careful consideration, decided for personal reasons to remove my name from consideration. I certainly wish them the best of luck."

Luhnow wouldn't confirm that Ausmus, 43, had interviewed for the job, saying that the team hadn't discussed any of the other candidates to this point.

Luhnow did say that the Astros had interviewed nine potential candidates and had recently cut that list down. He wouldn't reveal how many candidates are left on his short list.

"It's progressing," Luhnow said of the managerial search. "We feel very good about the process that we've undergone. We've met a lot of very high caliber candidates. We're hoping to be in a position relatively soon -- at the end of the weekend, early next week -- to narrow our list down even further. That's exciting. I can sense that we're getting close to the end."

Experience with American League baseball isn't necessarily a requirement.

"My sense is that it's more important if you're going from the American League to the National League," Luhnow said.

Candidates known to have interviewed for the job include Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa, Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco.

Ausmus played 10 seasons with the Astros and won three Gold Gloves. He is currently managing Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Biggio starts Legends Weekend with first pitch

HOUSTON -- Craig Biggio kicked off Legends Weekend at Minute Maid Park by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday's game against the Pirates.

"I've never thrown out a gold baseball before, so that'll be a first," Biggio said. "I'm excited about it."

The former Astros second baseman also said he was looking forward to Saturday's Legends Luncheon. At least 25 former Astros are expected to attend the luncheon at Union Station and participate in Saturday's pregame ceremony.

"It's a pretty cool weekend where you get the opportunity to be around a lot of great baseball players that have played here," Biggio said. "I'm excited about that. Obviously, I'm old enough that I've played with just about most of them. It'll be pretty cool to see everybody."

The Astros wore their Colt .45s throwback jerseys for Friday's game as a part of the final Flashback Friday. The Astros will wear their shooting star jerseys on Saturday and their rainbow jerseys on Sunday.

Worth noting

• Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said outfielder Fernando Martinez would need one more day off as he deals with right knee inflammation. Catcher Carlos Corporan, who left Thursday's game with a cramp in his hamstring, will also get the day off on Friday.