Notes: Lamb could switch roles
Infielder will fill in and make occasional starts for Astros
ATLANTA -- Manager Phil Garner had a meeting with Mike Lamb on Tuesday to inform the infielder that he's going to move back to a part-time role, as a bench player.
But that doesn't mean Lamb won't receive his share of starts. In fact, he was in Wednesday's lineup, playing first base. Ty Wigginton, presumably the club's third baseman for the next two years, will receive most, if not all, of the starts at that position. To make room for Lamb at first, Lance Berkman started in right.
This could be a configuration Garner utilizes often for the remainder of the season. If Lamb continues to hit well, Garner vows to find a place for him to play. Assuming he sticks with Wigginton at third -- although, right field is not out of the question, either -- Lamb's only other position is first base. With Berkman in right, that would move Luke Scott to the bench, even when the team faces a right-hander.
Such was the case on Wednesday. But would Garner make that a permanent move?
"I'm thinking about it," Garner said.
Lamb is a free agent after the 2007 season, and while he'd like to sign with a team that could guarantee he'll be an everyday starter at either first or third, he won't set rigid guidelines. He has no idea what he'll command on the free agent market, nor does he know what teams will offer in terms of playing time.
But if the Astros wanted to retain him and play him at first base -- or as Lamb put it, anywhere but pitcher, catcher, all three outfield positions and shortstop -- he'd consider it.
"I don't want to sit here and make ultimatums, like I have to be an everyday player, or nothing," Lamb said. "Like I've said before, I completely understand the bench player [role] and the team's needs. I don't want to sit here and be like, 'If the Astros aren't willing to put me in a position to play me every day, then I'm leaving.' That's not accurate."
The other side of the equation is Berkman. Would he be willing to give up his first base position and move to right field for the long-term?
"It's fine," Berkman said. "I don't care, I really don't. I'd like to play first, but if they think we're better that way, I would certainly do it."
No excuses: Following his three-error night on Tuesday, Eric Bruntlett stood at his locker and absorbed all of the blame for his bad night at his shortstop position.
But an Astros insider revealed the next day that Bruntlett may have had a little "help" with the second error, a wide throw to first base on an Edgar Renteria grounder.
Bruntlett said his performance made him want to "find a hole and hide yourself in it." There wasn't a hole, but there was a sprinkler, which Bruntlett apparently tripped over, causing the bad throw. The shortstop made no mention of it later.
"The man he is, he didn't make any excuses -- he just sucked it up," the team source said.
Early hitting, plus one: Four Astros players, and one son of an Astros player, showed up early to Turner Field on Wednesday to take a few rounds of extra batting practice.
Garner was pleased that Berkman, Scott, Brad Ausmus and Woody Williams showed an interest in the early hitting drills, but the skipper was much more impressed with what 12-year-old Caden Williams, son of Woody, brought to the table.
"He hit the best -- he was raking," Garner said. "At first, I was throwing from about 40 feet, just kind of lobbing it in there. He wasn't hitting it too good, so I threw one a little further and he whacked it. I was winding up and throwing almost as hard as I could, and he was whacking them."
The elder Williams is also impressed with the progress his son is making on the baseball diamond.
"He's starting to fill out and get strong and starting to get into it," Williams said.
Backe ready for rehab: Brandon Backe will make his first rehab start on Thursday, when he takes the mound for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks at Whataburger Field.
Backe, who is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery performed on his right elbow 11 months ago, is scheduled to make six rehab starts. If he remains on schedule, the right-hander could return to the Astros' rotation by early September.
Did you know? Wigginton has played almost as many games at second base than third base in his last three seasons. Early in his career, he played almost exclusively at third, but since 2005, he's played 142 games at third, 132 at second and 110 at first base. Overall, in his career, Wigginton has played 399 games at third, 120 at second, 83 at first, eight in right and six in center. He's also served as the designated hitter 16 times.
Coming up: The Astros will wrap up their series with the Braves on Thursday at Turner Field before heading to Florida for a weekend set with the Marlins. Thursday's game, which features Houston right-hander Williams and Braves lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, will begin at 6:35 p.m. CT.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.