HOUSTON -- Gina Law, who is battling breast cancer, has been chosen as the Astros' winner of the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest that recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrated a commitment to beating the disease.
Law will be recognized on-field at Minute Maid Park on Sunday as part of Mother's Day ceremonies. Fans across the country shared inspirational stories that provided hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons they or their nominees should represent their favorite team.
The 30 Honorary Bat Girl winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com along with feedback from a guest judging panel that included CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, Maria Menounos of Extra TV and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter.
During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, Honorary Bat Girls will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony, and will receive pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.
And once again, players will swing pink bats on Sunday. The hot pink color was introduced in 2012 and this year, it will include the new Louisville Slugger logo, which changed on MLB's Opening Day, marking the bat maker's first logo change in 33 years and only the second significant change in its 129 years in professional baseball.
Louisville Slugger and MLB first introduced the pink bat program on Mother's Day in 2006. Fans can obtain their own personalized pink bat by going to shop.MLB.com or sluggergifts.com. Game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother's Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.
Keuchel, Bedard rejoin Astros rotation
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter said Wednesday left-hander Dallas Keuchel will start Friday's series opener against the Rangers, with fellow southpaw Erik Bedard moving back into the rotation to throw Saturday's game. Meanwhile, struggling right-hander Philip Humber has been moved to the bullpen.
"We're just trying to go with the guys that give us the best opportunity at this time," said Porter, whose starting pitchers entered Wednesday with a league-worst 6.49 ERA.
Keuchel is 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in six relief appearances, but Friday will mark his first start of 2013.
"I'm a starter at heart," Keuchel said. "If my role is in the bullpen, then it's in the bullpen. I'm going to try to pitch to the best of my ability. Friday is going to be no different."
He made 16 starts for the Astros last year and was 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA, including a complete-game win over Cleveland on June 23.
"One of the things you look at, the Rangers' lineup is left-handed dominant and they have some left-handed guys in their lineup, and we felt like if we can get both of our lefties matched up against them it would put us in good position," Porter said. "Dallas has done a tremendous job out of the bullpen and he's given us length every time he's come into the game, and we're going to give him an opportunity to get into the rotation."
Bedard made five starts before being moved to the bullpen and now finds himself back in the rotation. He's 0-2 with a 9.98 ERA as a starter this year, but in two relief appearances has allowed three hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings.
"The competition we have for these spots is a fluid situation, and it wasn't a competition that was going to end in Spring Training," Porter said. "I made that perfectly clear to the guys then. Obviously, moves like this kind of reiterate that to them and we're going to try to go with the hot hand and go with the guys that give us the best opportunity to win ballgames."
Humber got off to a nice start for Houston and had a 2.89 ERA in three starts, but he was 0-3 due to a lack of run support. He's 0-4 with a 16.20 ERA in four starts since.
"I talked to Humber and told him the same thing we told Bedard when we sent him down there," Porter said. "I said, 'It's going to be a situation you are built up and you've seen the long guys go down there and have success, like Keuchel, and end up back in the rotation.' Bedard went down to the bullpen and did a tremendous job last time out and he's going into the rotation. It's a fluid situation we will continue to monitor and this competition will continue to go on."
Bedard will pitch at Pittsburgh the following weekend, Porter said.
Astros reach out to former teammate Happ
HOUSTON -- Several Astros players have reached out to Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ, who was struck in the head by a line drive and taken to a hospital on Tuesday night. Happ, who pitched two years in Houston before being traded in July, was released from the hospital on Wednesday.
Catcher Jason Castro sent Happ a text message following Houston's game on Tuesday and received a response from Happ on Wednesday. Happ attended Castro's wedding last year.
"He texted me back this morning and said he's feeling better," Castro said. "I saw a little clip of him on TV leaving the hospital. I haven't heard much from him, but he said he's feeling better. It's scary to see that, but hopefully he can have a quick recovery and be back up here."
Astros starter Lucas Harrell, whose locker was next to Happ's, also sent a get-well text message to Happ.
"I just said, 'Hey, I've been praying for you and hopefully you're all right,'" Harrell said. "I saw a thing on TV where he said he was feeling better. Hopefully he's OK and he texts me back in a day or so and I can find out exactly how he's doing. He's a really good guy and was a good teammate."
Happ's injury has resurfaced the conversation of pitchers possibly wearing some sort of protective cap while they're on the mound.
"I don't think necessarily we need to have a helmet," Harrell said. "I think that is part of the game and I think you see it maybe once or twice a year where it's a significant injury."
Astros relief pitcher Wesley Wright said he would be in favor of a padded cap.
"If it's functional and not too big a difference from what we wear now, I think it's worth giving it a shot," he said. "But growing up, you know it's part of the possibility of being a pitcher as well as a hitter. Things happen, and I try to put more emphasis on how I finish and try to put myself in a better fielding position.
"At the same time you're trying to throw as hard to making the pitches nasty, you put yourself in a bad fielding position and make yourself more vulnerable. I try to make sure I end up in a good fielding position where I can defend myself."
Humber takes move to bullpen in stride
HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Philip Humber, who was told Wednesday by manager Bo Porter he was being moved from the rotation to the bullpen, was disappointed but understands the team's decision. Humber is 0-7 with an 8.82 ERA in seven starts, including a 16.20 ERA in his last four.
"It's fine with me," he said "To me, I'm looking at it as an opportunity to take a step back and there are some things I need to get better at. It will give me a chance to work on that and help the team however I can."
Humber took advantage of Monday's day off to meet with Rice University coach Wayne Graham, who won his only College World Series title when Humber went the distance in the title game against Stanford 10 years ago.
"A lot of things he told me were the same things these guys told me, and I guess I was in a different frame of mind and more open to suggestions," Humber said. "I've been kind of down on myself. I didn't think my stuff was very good this year and kind of focused on that, rather than really just making pitches down the zone. My stuff's going to get better, but right now it is what it is. Whatever your stuff is, if you're throwing it up in the strike zone, it's going to get hit hard. That's what I want to get better at is locating all my pitches so I can get guys out. That's the main thing."
Humber made 10 relief appearances last year after the White Sox moved him out the starting rotation, so he's no stranger to what needs to be done out of the bullpen.
"For me, it's a matter of getting right and getting more opportunities to get in there," he said. "I need to get better. That's the main thing, that's what I'm focused on, wherever I'm at -- rotation or bullpen. I've got to pitch better and I'm not satisfied with what I've done so far, so I'll keep working at it."