CLEVELAND -- The Astros didn't have outfielder George Springer (hamstring discomfort) and All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve (left shoulder) in the starting lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Indians, though manager A.J. Hinch said both would be available to come off the bench as they nurse nagging injuries.Altuve was
CLEVELAND -- The Astros didn't have outfielder George Springer (hamstring discomfort) and All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve (left shoulder) in the starting lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Indians, though manager A.J. Hinch said both would be available to come off the bench as they nurse nagging injuries.
Altuve was called to action in the Astros' 4-3 loss Thursday, entering the game as a pinch-hitter for left fielder Tony Kemp in the top of the ninth inning. Altuve singled off of closer Cody Allen, but the game-tying run he represented vanished when he was thrown out attempting to steal second base.
Springer hasn't been in the lineup since injuring his hamstring running to first base Saturday against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Altuve was shaken up Tuesday against the Indians in a violent collision with outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, who went on the disabled list with a bruised lower left leg.
"They've both gone through a couple of things the last week, and [we're] just trying to keep them healthy and maybe get them one extra day to feel as close to 100 percent as you can feel after a month of Major League baseball," Hinch said. "Both of them are having the best days they've had since their injuries. I think we're gearing towards good things for the week."
Altuve said Thursday that his left shoulder has bothered him since he collided with Hernandez. Still, he took batting practice in the indoor tunnel at Progressive Field, and is happy with his progress.
"I feel a little stiff in my shoulder, but way better than yesterday or the day before," he said. "Obviously, I collided with a big guy. Teoscar is pretty strong. He knocked me down. I feel really happy about how I feel today. A.J., he's always trying to take care of his players. Like I said, he manages this team really good, so he decided to give me one more day and I'm good with it."
Like Altuve, Springer said he's getting better, and closer to a return to the lineup.
"It's a weird thing to have," he said. "I need to be able to go my full speed, and if I can't, that's only hurting the team. I don't want to go out there anything less than 100 percent."
Even without Altuve and Springer, Hinch said having the luxury of a deep lineup is beneficial at times when players are nicked up.
"Especially with Marwin [Gonzalez] starting to swing the bat better," he said. "Obviously, I'm getting [Tony] Kemp in there for the first time this season, but [Norichika] Aoki's ability and [Josh] Reddick's ability to move around the outfield makes me feel a little bit better.
"I never envisioned a day I would not play [Carlos] Beltran, Springer and Altuve. That's a pretty strong bench. Today needed to be that day. I feel really good where they're at and what they can help us with tonight, and most importantly the longer view of where they fit in for the weekend."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.