HOUSTON -- Jon Singleton, the slugging first baseman who's having a strong season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, will join the Astros at some point this season, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday. That certainly comes as no surprise, but when exactly the Astros' No. 4 prospect will get called up remains a mystery.
Singleton is hitting .293 with 12 homers, 34 RBIs and a 1.030 OPS through 38 games for the RedHawks, who were off Wednesday.
"Singleton's progressing," Luhnow said. "We see him as a guy who's close to being able to contribute at the Major League level. We're excited. We've all seen the reaction the fans had at bringing up prospects like [George] Springer and last year with [Jarred] Cosart and we have more coming. I would say Singleton is on deck."
Luhnow was asked to define "on deck."
"We have our own process for determining when a player is ready to come up," he said. "I'm not going to disclose what that is or the details, but just suffice it to say we're doing our homework and when the time is right, he'll be here."
The Astros could decide to wait until mid to late June so Singleton doesn't quality for Super Two status. The top 22 percent of players with at least two years but fewer than three years of Major League service time are eligible for arbitration if they have accumulated at least 86 days of service time during the immediately preceding season.
Players who qualify for Super Two status would get an extra year of arbitration eligibility -- four instead of three -- and could cost their team millions of dollars. The exact date when a player could be called up and not quality for Super Two status won't be known until season's end, but it's usually in late May or early June.
If teams want to play it safe, they would call up a player in late June.
"I think he will play up here this year," Luhnow said. "When remains to be seen. The more he progresses down there and the more success he has, the sooner it will be."
Bass lands on DL with intercostal strain
HOUSTON -- While reaching out to catch a ball during his pregame throwing Tuesday, Astros reliever Anthony Bass felt some discomfort on the right side of his torso. He was later diagnosed with a strained right intercostal muscle and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.
"It's sore," Bass said. "I'm going to give it time and ice. Everyone's different. It all depends on how the body responds to the treatment, and then I'll be back."
Bass, 26, is 1-0 with two saves and a 4.50 ERA in 15 games for the Astros this season. He leads the club with four holds and has allowed a .239 opponent's batting average. He has 90 career Major League appearances with San Diego (2011-13) and Houston (2014), which acquired him via trade from the Padres in December.
"It's not disappointing because I was throwing the ball hard, it's disappointing because I want to get out there and help the team win," he said. "These things happen. It's unfortunate. I'll be back. Hopefully the treatment responds and I come back here soon, but we'll see. There's really no timetable."
Right-hander Josh Fields was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Bass' spot in the bullpen.
Bass, whose DL stint is retroactive to Sunday, joins fellow relievers Matt Albers (shoulder tendinitis) and Jose Cisnero (ulnar collateral ligament strain) on the disabled list. Jesse Crain, who began the spring rehabbing from biceps tendinitis surgery, is now dealing with bursitis in his right shoulder and remains on the DL.
"He had really turned the corner and was throwing the ball well," manager Bo Porter said. "We didn't know how long it was going to be and we didn't feel like we wanted to go short."
Bass' injury provides Fields with another shot
HOUSTON -- Only a week after manager Bo Porter said he wanted him to go to Triple-A to work on his confidence, right-handed reliever Josh Fields was back with the Astros. He was recalled Wednesday when reliever Anthony Bass went on the disabled list with a strained right intercostal muscle.
Fields was optioned to Oklahoma City after giving up 14 earned runs and 14 hits in three innings in five outings. He began the season in the bullpen and posted a 2.00 ERA and two saves in his first nine games before struggling. Fields had pitched three hitless innings for the RedHawks.
"I guess it's a little unexpected, but I feel pretty good," he said. "I had some pretty solid outings in Triple-A that I felt good about. I guess they felt I was ready to come back."
Porter described Fields' outings with the RedHawks as "dominating." The Astros had so much confidence in Fields the first month of the season that he was in the mix of relievers who were closing games. Porter said the Astros wanted Fields to relax.
"That's one of the things we talked to him about before he left," he said. "You see the power arm, you see the breaking stuff. But sometimes the game can speed up on you at this level. Being able to slow the game down and relax and make pitches is one of the big aspects of being a good Major League pitcher and being able to play to your potential."
Albers is likely out until mid-June
HOUSTON -- Astros right-handed reliever Matt Albers said Wednesday he could be out of action for another three to four weeks while he recovers from tendinitis in his right shoulder. Albers had a cortisone injection in the shoulder Tuesday and will head to Kissimmee, Fla., within the next week to continue to rehab.
Albers, on the disabled list since April 22, tried to throw a simulated game on Friday in Baltimore but didn't feel right warming up and shut it down. He's since had an MRI exam that showed no structural damage to the shoulder.
"Throwing at 60, 70 percent was fine, and I really tried to ramp it up and the pain came back," he said. "I took the next step and got an MRI and structurally everything looked good, which is a good sign. There's just inflammation in there. That's what's causing the pain. They went ahead and gave me a couple of cortisone shots and I will take a couple of weeks off and see where I'm at. I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's a good three to four weeks before I come back."
Albers, signed to a contract this offseason, has pitched in eight games, allowing one earned run in 10 innings. He was on the DL from June 26-Oct. 21, 2008, with right shoulder inflammation.
"It's definitely discouraging," he said. "Obviously, you'd love to be out there helping the team. I pride myself in being pretty durable, and I haven't had any issues with being on the DL, except for 2008. It's definitely unfortunate, but it just kind of happens that you have to deal with it. I tried to come back quickly and it wasn't working, so I have to take time and make sure it's right."
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he was relieved there was nothing wrong structurally with Albers' shoulder.
"It's just a matter of getting a little rest and back out throwing and he should be fine," he said. "I'm encouraged."
Astros keeping an eye out for relief help
HOUSTON -- With three of the four veteran relievers the Astros brought into the mix this winter now on the disabled list, the club will be on the lookout to add some help from outside the organization, like they did a few weeks ago by signing veteran free-agent lefty Tony Sipp.
Relief pitchers Anthony Bass (strained intercostal), Matt Albers (shoulder inflammation) and Jesse Crain (bursitis) are on the DL. Bass went on the shelf Wednesday, Albers has been sidelined since April 22 and could miss another month and Crain has been out all year.
"With Crain and Albers coming back hopefully in the next month, that's going to help a lot," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We're going to be aware if things present themselves, like going out and getting a guy like Sipp. At times, they can have an immediate impact.
"There might be some other guys from the Minor Leagues who get opportunities in the meantime. We do feel like we have guys here who are capable of getting outs. These guys have the tools to get outs. Part of it is confidence; part of it is putting them in situations to be successful. With starters going deeper into games, now we'll be able to do that."
Astros manager Bo Porter said he's consulted anytime the team is considering a move.
"Anytime a player becomes available that can help us, it's a combination that's going to be everybody doing his due diligence and we find out whether or not it's a possibility," he said.
Luhnow visits with LSU's Alleva
HOUSTON -- The chance to come to Minute Maid Park with several of his coaches, including football coach Les Miles, on Wednesday allowed LSU athletic director Joe Alleva the opportunity to spend some time with his son's boss -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Alleva's son, JD Alleva, is a regional crosschecker in the Astros' scouting department and has been instrumental in the team's Drafts the last few years. The junior Alleva was on the road preparing for the First-Year Player Draft when his father was in town, but it did little to diminish the fun for Joe.
"During the season, he doesn't get to Houston very often until Draft time," he said. "He's busy this time of year."
JD played four years in the Royals' farm system before becoming a scout for the Astros in 2006. He was an area scout for several years and became a scouting crosschecker in 2011, based in Charlotte, N.C.
"He's been involved with a lot of the Minor League guys that have been drafted," Alleva said. "It's great to see this team as it gets better and improves with these young kids. I'm very proud of him. He really loves professional baseball, and I think he has a bright career going forward. Because my son works for [the Astros], I definitely keep up with them."
Luhnow spent several minutes visiting with Joe Alleva, whom he had met before. In fact, Luhnow sat in the LSU AD's box at Alex Box Stadium in 2012 while scouting Kevin Gausman, who was later drafted by the Orioles in the first round.
"He's a great guy from a great sports family," Luhnow said. "And what a great sports organization LSU is."