PITTSBURGH -- With relievers David Carpenter and Fernando Abad each having thrown three consecutive days heading into Tuesday's game, Astros manager Brad Mills found himself a little strapped in the bullpen Tuesday with neither was available.
Mills prefers the flexibility of carrying eight relievers, but he currently has seven arms in the bullpen because he's going with a six-man starting rotation until the All-Star break. Houston is currently carrying 12 position players, which is one less than most teams carry.
"What I liked was early in the season when we had a four-man rotation and could utilize the off-days," Mills said. "That way we had the extra reliever in the bullpen, plus we had a full complement of position players on the bench. If I had my druthers, that would be it."
The Astros will have 20 consecutive games without a day off after the All-Star break, which means Mills would like to have the extra bullpen arm. Steady reliever Wilton Lopez is expected to return from a sprained elbow after the break, but whether the Astros stick with the six-man rotation remains to be seen.
"We're going to talk about some things as we move forward, start talking about the rotations and so forth after the break," Mills said.
Schafer pulled mid-game after defensive gaffe
PITTSBURGH -- Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer was pulled from Wednesday's loss to the Pirates in the third inning for what manager Brad Mills called "behavioral reasons."
Schafer threw to the wrong base on a sacrifice fly in the second inning, throwing to third base when he didn't have a realistic shot of getting the runner. Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez advanced from first to second base and eventually scored.
"I just felt that play and behavior didn't match what we needed to get done and what everybody was doing," Mills said. "We came out of the gate busting our tails, guys were going first to third, first to third, and putting ourselves in position to score a lot of runs. His behavior didn't match what we needed to have done."
Mills didn't elaborate on any other issues he had with Schafer. Earlier in the inning, though, Garrett Jones hit a blooper in front of Schafer and was able to race into second base for a hustling double.
Schafer, acquired a year ago from the Braves as part of the Michael Bourn trade, is hitting .236 with three homers, 20 RBIs and 19 stolen bases for the Astros. He admitted he should have thrown the ball to second base.
"Yeah, he was right," Schafer said. "It was a slow runner and the ball was hit deeper than I thought and I should have threw the ball to second base."
When asked about the other play, Schafer said: "I'm really not going to comment on the other play. We saw things a little bit differently. He's the manager and he did what he thought was right and I have no problem with it. I 100 percent should have thrown the ball to second base and that's my fault."
Schafer was asked if he thought there would be a problem going forward.
"I need to go out and play hard and whatever happens, happens," he said.
Martinez playing through soreness
PITTSBURGH -- The Astros wanted to make sure left fielder J.D. Martinez was healthy before putting him in the lineup Wednesday against the Pirates. Martinez slighted strained a left gluteus muscle on Tuesday and was having some soreness.
"We wanted to see how he was feeling," manager Brad Mills said. "He had to get some treatment and so forth and get some swings in the cage before we could put him in there."
Martinez, who started his 14th consecutive game in left field on Wednesday, entered the game hitting .283 with three homers and 18 RBIs in his previous 15 games and singled in his first at-bat. He has a team-leading 47 RBIs at the halfway point of the season.
"I'm feeling alright," he said. "I'm just a little sore. I just wanted to see if I was going to be able to go today. I'm not 100 percent, but I still feel like I can go out there and help the team. It doesn't bother me running, just swinging. It's not something I'm concerned about."
La Russa didn't speak with Pettini about All-Stars
PITTSBURGH -- Astros bench coach Joe Pettini, who will serve as the bench coach for the National League in next week's All-Star Game in Kansas City, said he never had any conversations with NL manager Tony La Russa about which Astros should make the team.
The Astros, not surprisingly, had only one All-Star -- second baseman Jose Altuve, who was voted in by his fellow players. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, whose 14 homers were the most among NL shortstops when the teams were picked, didn't make it.
"It never came up," Pettini said. "In the back of my mind, I was thinking [La Russa] may call at some point and ask, and I had the guys in mind I was going to recommend and he never did call. We did get a guy on there and I'm happy for Jose. I thought Jed had a shot and I was kind of pulling for him, as well, but everybody's got someone that doesn't make it."
La Russa, who retired after leading the Cardinals to the World Series title last year, asked Pettini last winter if he wanted to be on his staff for the All-Star Game. He was looking forward to spending time at home, but his wife understood the significance of being with La Russa for his final game.
"As much as he's done for me in the last 10 years, I wasn't going to miss that," Pettini said.