HOUSTON -- Astros icon Craig Biggio presented retiring Braves third baseman Chipper Jones with a cowboy hat as a retirement gift on behalf of the Astros before Monday's game. Jones is making his final trip to Houston this week.
"As a player, the home fans love you, but there's a lot of fans that respect you in other ballparks," said Biggio, who retired after the 2007 season. "They might not like you because of what you've done to them on the baseball field, but they respect you the way you play. To be able to let them say thank you in return is a classy move. It's a good thing. He'll be sad once that last day gets here, but he should enjoy it because he's meant a lot to the game."
Jones, who is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday to face the Astros, is a career .319 hitter with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 124 regular-season games against Houston. His three-run homer off Billy Wagner to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2001 National League Division Series is a bitter memory for Astros fans.
Still, Jones got a nice round of applause.
"It's a nice gesture and it's much appreciated," he said. "Houston has always been special to me because it's the one place my parents get to come and there are a ton of Braves fans here. There have been a ton of great games against Houston during my tenure here. So it's awfully nice of them to do that."
Biggio, who will be up for National Baseball Hall of Fame induction for the first time next year, believes Jones should find his way to Cooperstown eventually.
"I've really never looked at his numbers or this and that, but whenever people mention his name they say Hall of Fame, so obviously his numbers are there," he said. "You cross your fingers when your five years are up and hopefully you can get it."
Lowrie could be activated for Friday's game
HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie will head to Triple-A Oklahoma City on a Minor League assignment on Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes well, he'll fly with the Astros to Miami on Thursday and be activated in time for Friday's game against the Marlins.
Lowrie, who began the season the disabled list with a sprained right thumb, will get two or three at-bats Tuesday and then is scheduled to play nine innings Wednesday. The RedHawks are scheduled to face a pair of right-handed starters, so Lowrie will get some swings from the left side of the plate.
"I think it makes sense," Lowrie said. "It's about 12 days since I've played, but it feels good. Once it gets to the point I can play and it feels strong, it's going to be managing it from that point. That just comes with the season."
Lowrie, acquired by the Astros in December to be their starting shortstop, sprained his right thumb with about a week remaining in spring camp and hasn't played since. He's progressed enough to take batting practice on the field with no problems.
"I feel good and I've said from the beginning, I want to continue to take steps moving forward and so far that's happened," he said.
The Astros will have to make another roster move by Friday to clear a spot for Lowrie.
Maxwell homers in first at-bat with Astros
HOUSTON -- That's one way to endear yourself to your new teammates.
Justin Maxwell, claimed off waivers Sunday from the Yankees, hit a pinch-hit two-run homer in his first Astros at-bat in the eighth inning of Monday's 8-3 win over the Braves, becoming the first Astro to homer in his first at-bat with the club since reliever Gustavo Chacin in 2010.
"All the guys have been very welcoming, and now the hardest part has been learning everybody's name," Maxwell said. "It definitely eases things and makes me feel more a part of the team already."
Maxwell, 28, spent his entire 2011 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees system, hitting .260 with 16 home runs and 35 RBIs. He appeared in 27 games for the Yankees this spring, hitting .310 with 11 RBIs before being designated for assignment on Wednesday.
"It was a good Easter Sunday," he said. "I was waiting for an opportunity and now I'm in Houston and I'm excited. I played in the National League so you have to be ready at all times, ready for the double switch and anything can happen. It's a young team here. I've been reading about it and I'm excited to be a part of it."
The only previous Major League experience for Maxwell was with the Nationals, for which he appeared in 122 games (2007, '09-10). He's played all three outfield positions in his career, including 57 games in center field.
"You put all the work in Spring Training and you go home for a few days," Maxwell said of being designed for assignment. "I got see my daughter for her second birthday and I missed it last year, so that was fun. My father-in-law and brother had a surprise birthday, so I got to do fun stuff. But at the same time, I wish I was on a team for Opening Day, but my Opening Day [was] tonight."
To make room for Maxwell, the Astros optioned pitcher Fernando Abad to Triple-A Oklahoma City. He made the club's Opening Day roster after posting a 2.08 ERA in nine appearances this spring. In 53 Major League relief appearances in his career, all with Houston (2010-12), Abad is 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA.
In first start with club, Buck in left field
HOUSTON -- Travis Buck made his first start for the Astros on Monday, getting the nod in left field while J.D. Martinez was given a breather. Buck has spent plenty of time the last few days fielding fly balls off the manual scoreboard in left field, which can often lead to unusual bounces or angles.
"The past couple of days before BP, I've gone out there and tried to take as many off the wall as possible," Buck said. "Obviously, there's not one way it's going to come off consistently. It's a matter of trying to get back there and if I can't catch it, give me some room where I won't let the ball get away from me too much."
Because the left-field wall is only 315 feet from home plate at the line, Buck says that will allow him to play a little more shallow than normal.
"As an outfielder, balls that are hit over your head are a double and you don't want to make them into a triple," he said. "If I'm back too much and the ball's off the wall, it has a better chance of getting away from me. It's a matter of seeing who's up [to bat], playing the situations and just knowing that I've got to be on my toes and get ready any time a ball goes over my head just in case. You don't know which way it's going to go."