HOUSTON -- Despite weeks of talk to the contrary, Justin Maxwell may not be the starting center fielder for the Astros when he finishes his rehab assignment from a fractured left hand suffered in April, manager Bo Porter said Friday.
"I'm going to say that he will start. I'm not going to say it will be at center field," Porter said. "Brandon Barnes has done a great job there. He will warrant some continued playing time in center. That's why we've had Maxwell play some places beside center field [during his rehab assignment]. It gives us the luxury of having the option for both guys."
Maxwell was called up to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday after struggling mightily with Double-A Corpus Christi. The 29-year-old recorded just one hit in 23 at-bats with the Hooks, but he was struggling through some stomach ailments and food-poisoning symptoms.
"[Friday] is probably the first time he's back at full strength, and we'll give him some time to prove himself," Porter said. "We definitely know what kind of player he can be, and we want to get him back here once he's ready."
Maxwell started exclusively in center field in 20 games with the Astros prior to injuring his hand on April 23. Porter said there is no timetable for Maxwell's return.
Porter managing lineup against southpaws
HOUSTON -- With four White Sox southpaws starting against the Astros, manager Bo Porter has some tough lineup decisions to make until Monday.
It began with Friday's opener, as catcher Jason Castro and first baseman Carlos Pena were each held out of the lineup with ace left-hander Chris Sale on the hill.
"You have to pick your spots and figure out, with Castro and Pena being everyday guys even against lefties, what day you're going to give them off," Porter said. "Sale is obviously rough on lefties, so tonight was the day. I wanted to run a right-handed-heavy run at them."
With Thursday's off-day, Castro and Pena both get two days of rest. Chris Carter started at first and batted fifth, while Carlos Corporan caught in Castro's place and hit fourth.
Left-handed hitters entered batting just .075 against Sale this season, with only four hits in 53 at-bats. Castro and Pena are hitting .135 and .256, respectively, against southpaws. Pena is actually hitting 33 points better against lefties than righties this season.
Crane 'optimistic' about long-term TV deal
HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane is "optimistic" that a deal between Time Warner and CSN Houston will get done, making Astros broadcasts available on more televisions in the Houston area by season's end.
Crane addressed the television deal Friday during an interview on Houston's ESPN Radio 97.5.
Currently, approximately 40 percent of the Houston television market can see Astros games.
"We're very focused on [getting a deal done]," Crane said. "We work on it every day and something, I think, will develop here within 30 days."
Crane said he wants to make sure the new deal gives the Astros a legitimate ability to contend with its American League West rivals.
"If we don't work a deal here that's good for the team long term, it won't make us as viable as the Rangers or Seattle with the deals that have been done there on the TV networks," Crane said. "We just want a deal that's fair to the team, that gives us a similar amount of resources to be able to run a payroll that's in that vicinity when we can spend that money effectively."
Crane emphasized the team refrained from spending more money on payroll this year as part of a rebuilding effort, saying increasing payroll in 2013 could have "gotten [the Astros] 10 or 12 more wins" but wouldn't help future goals.
"We were looking at the long term, how to rebuild this club properly from the bottom. Spending that money this year wouldn't have been done in an effective way."
Crane said that payroll will likely increase "significantly" next year, but he didn't specify by approximately how much or whether the additional money will be spent on existing players or in free agency.
Astros president Reid Ryan said working out a new TV deal was his top priority when he was hired last month, and Crane's remarks fit with the negotiating philosophy Ryan touted.
"I think there's a real desire from Jim to get it right," Ryan said last month. "He knows if he doesn't get it right, it can affect the club for a very, very long period of time. There's a perception nationally that Houston is a small market and people want to treat us as a small market, but this is the fourth-largest city in America and it's kind of a slap in the face to call Houston a small market."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.