ST. PETERSBURG -- Astros closer Chad Qualls was throwing for the first time in a week when he tossed a scoreless inning in Thursday's 5-0 loss to the Rays. Qualls had been dealing with what he called a groin "tweak," which coupled with the fact the Astros did not have many save opportunities in the past week had kept Qualls off the mound.
Qualls said he tweaked his groin in Minnesota two weeks ago and had been dealing with it on and off for more than a week while he got treatment.
"We were winning a lot and I was pitching, so I never had a chance to give it multiple days off," Qualls said.
Qualls has a 2.19 ERA, with scoreless outings in 20 of his most recent 21 times on the mound. The bullpen has scuffled in the past week or so, which has coincided with the starters not working as deep into games as they did for much of May and early June.
"Sometimes, if some of [the relievers] can get two days off in a row and rest your whole body, your legs, your everything, it helps," he said. "A lot of those guys down here haven't gotten two in a row. They've gotten one day off and pitched two and maybe one day off and pitched three. That happens over the course of the year in the bullpen. I think we'll pull through and go back to feeling good again."
Bass shows progress toward return to Astros
ST. PETERSBURG -- Not much information has come from the Astros recently about injured relievers Matt Albers and Anthony Bass, both of whom have been rehabbing in Kissimmee, Fla. But Astros manager Bo Porter on Friday said Bass was close to his first rehab game.
Bass, who has been out since May 11 with a right intercostal strain, threw live batting practice on Thursday.
"The fact he got on the mound lets me know he's close to getting on a rehab," Porter said. "I've never been one to care much about a Major League guy rehabbing that was there for injury purposes. I'm more concerned about his oblique not hindering him to be able to throw all of his pitches, cover the bases and do all the things in which he would need to do.
"If he's able to do that, we would love to get him back here. He was a major part of our bullpen before he went down with that injury."
Albers has been out since April 22 with right shoulder tendinitis. He is expected back with the club on Tuesday in Houston to continue his rehab.
"When he first went out, no, I didn't think it would be this long," Porter said. "When you start to talk about pitchers and arms and shoulders, they can always be tricky because they can think they feel one thing, but now they get through the process after you give them some time off and end up taking a little bit longer than you anticipated."
Altuve evokes hitting, baserunning of Biggio
ST. PETERSBURG -- Second baseman Jose Altuve is on pace to become only the second Astros player to have at least 200 hits and 50 stolen bases in a season. Craig Biggio set the franchise record with 210 hits in 1998, the same year he stole 50 bases.
Altuve banged out his Major League-leading 100th hit in his second at-bat Friday and led the American League with 26 stolen bases. Altuve set a career high with 35 steals last year, but he also led the league with 13 times caught stealing. He has been caught just three times year, which first-base coach/baserunning coach Tarrik Brock attributes to Altuve's improved baseball acumen.
"It's just picking the right spots for him to run and doing our homework over the pitchers that he's going to face, starters and guys coming out of the bullpen," Brock said. "You have to know the hitters and the guys coming up behind him as well.
"Sometimes the threat of him running is greater than actually running and setting up the hitters behind him. In doing that, you catch some pitchers that fall asleep with him over there and being able to take advantage of it with him in scoring position. When he's ready to go, there's wasted time."
Manager Bo Porter said Altuve set out to improve his success rate when it came to stealing bases.
"I give him a lot of credit," Porter said. "There was some room for growth, and Tarrik Brock has done a great job with the baserunning, and Altuve has done a good job taking the information and understanding the value of when to run, when not to run."
Porter said Altuve could have had 40 stolen bases by now but understands that being on first base can be beneficial to the hitters behind him, who may get more fastballs with him a threat to run to second.