Astros ace Oswalt (lower back) on track to start Friday vs. Nats

Updated: July 8, 2008, 7:37 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Houston Astros ace Roy Oswalt is on track to start Friday's game against the Washington Nationals after having his previous turn in the rotation skipped because of a nerve problem in his lower back.

Oswalt
Oswalt

Oswalt received a painkilling shot in the sciatic nerve in his lower back Saturday. Houston manager Cecil Cooper said the right-hander threw 35 to 40 pitches as part of a bullpen session Tuesday and emerged pain-free.

"It was just to see how he felt," Cooper said. "It was great to see it felt great. That brings a smile to my face. He didn't feel any pain, so that's a good thing. I think [the injury] is all behind him."

Oswalt, an All-Star the previous three seasons, is 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA this year. He left his previous start during the seventh inning June 30 in Los Angeles with pain in his left hip. The sciatic nerve had been inflamed, causing the pain in the hip.

The Astros also optioned pitcher Runelvys Hernandez to Triple-A Round Rock and recalled right-hander Chad Reineke.

Hernandez was pounded for 10 runs in four innings Monday's start against the Pirates. He was 0-3 with a 10.29 in three starts.

Reineke, who has yet to pitch in the majors, was 3-8 with a 6.06 ERA in 12 starts for Round Rock. Cooper said the team needed a pitcher capable of throwing multiple innings in case of an emergency Tuesday after the bullpen was overextended in a 17-inning loss in Atlanta Sunday.

Houston has 13 pitchers on its roster now, but Cooper said it's likely that number would drop to 12 before Wednesday's game.

Starting second baseman Kaz Matsui is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list. He has not played since June 22 due to a strained right hamstring.

Cooper said Matsui "probably" would be activated Wednesday.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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