HOUSTON -- Monday marked the 13th anniversary of Carlos Lee's Major League debut, which occurred May 7, 1999. And coincidentally, Lee entered the day with 1,300 RBIs, which means he's averaged 100 RBIs for more than a dozen years.
Lee's debut came for the White Sox in a 7-1 win over the Oakland Athletics. Starting in left field, Lee homered in his first Major League at-bat and wound up going 1-for-4. He said he never imagined he would have played 13 years.
"Honestly, no," Lee said. "You never know. There's so much going on in this game. You're happy to go year by year and do your best."
Lee homered off A's knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, hitting a 3-2 breaking pitch on a line and out of new Comiskey Park. Lee retrieved the ball and gave it to his mother in Panama.
Lee entered Monday hitting .286 for his career, with 351 homers and 2,156 hits in 1,977 games in six seasons with the Astros, six with the White Sox, two with the Brewers and one with the Rangers. "I'm very proud of my career," he said. "I just want to keep going. As long as I can feel like I can help, I'll keep going and see where I'll end up."
Buck thriving as pinch-hitter, but will gladly start
HOUSTON -- Following the lead set by Matt Downs last year, Astros outfielder Travis Buck is among the top pinch-hitters in the National League one month into the season. That didn't stop manager Brad Mills from giving Buck his 10th start of the season, though, on Monday.
Buck, who is 5-for-7 with two doubles and a triple as a pinch-hitter, started in right field in the series opener against the Marlins in place of Brian Bogusevic.
"It's funny because people always say since I'm doing such a good job as a pinch-hitter right now, that's what my role might be, but I look at it as whenever I'm in the lineup, it's a great to get multiple at-bats," Buck said. "It can get kind of tough sometimes if you're pinch-hitting if you're not getting the at-bats every day and not seeing live pitching."
Buck entered Monday hitting .297 with a .366 on-base percentage and says he comes to the ballpark prepared to pinch-hit or start.
"The good thing about this team, and especially being in the outfield with Bogusevic, is we can kind of mix and match in a sense where each guy can get a couple of starts and see what they can do to get on a roll," Buck said. "I had my chance the first couple of games in Washington [April 16-17] and unfortunately I went down with a hamstring problem. It's a matter of taking it day by day and continuing to have good at-bats and get on base."
Catcher Snyder to work exclusively with Harrell
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills hadn't committed to pairing one starting pitcher with a specific catcher, that but changed on Monday. Mills said Chris Snyder, who was in the lineup to catch Wandy Rodriguez on Monday, will catch the majority of Lucas Harrell's starts the rest of the way.
Snyder has been behind the plate for three of Harrell's six starts this year, including his last two. Harrell has a 3.93 ERA with three walks and eight strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings with Snyder catching, and has a 5.74 ERA with 10 walks and seven strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings with Jason Castro behind the plate.
"That's a good setup there," Mills said.
It's been challenging for Mills to pair pitchers with certain catchers because Castro is a left-handed hitter and Snyder is a right-hander hitter, and the opposing pitcher often dictates who starts. Mills also takes other factors into consideration, such as day games after night games and travel.
Snyder's start Monday was his 12th start of the season, compared to 17 for Castro, who missed all of last season following knee surgery.
"We have two very good catchers, and people have to understand that," Mills said. "Our pitching staff understands that. They are two guys that work really hard and look at video and scouting reports and match things up real well. It's not an instance where one guy is way over another guy."
Right-hander Rhiner Cruz appears close to rejoining the Astros' bullpen after throwing one inning in his second Minor League rehab stint for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, allowing one hit and one run. Manager Brad Mills watched the game on the internet and said Cruz, who's been out with a sprained ankle, looked good while throwing 12 pitches. Cruz hasn't pitching since April 23 and would be eligible to be activated Wednesday.