07/25/2006 9:25 PM ET
Notes: Berkman sits out opener
Astros slugger remains day to day with sore groin
By Kevin Yanik / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman, who's usually a late arrival to the ballpark, walked into the Astros clubhouse early Tuesday afternoon and noticed manager Phil Garner's lineup already was hanging up.
Berkman wasn't penciled in against the Reds, though. Instead, he was given an extra day of rest to nurse a strained left groin sustained in his club's last game, Sunday against the Mets.
"It feels better [Tuesday] than it did [Monday], certainly," Berkman said. "Hopefully, another day of rest gets it where it needs to be."
Lately, Berkman has spent more time playing right field -- not first base -- and he's been sprinting more often defensively than he anticipated back in April.
"This year, I thought I was playing mostly first base," Berkman said. "I didn't play a single game in the outfield in Spring Training. All of a sudden, a month into the season, I'm in the outfield."
The day-to-day switch from first base to the outfield hasn't been easy. Berkman wasn't able to condition himself as well over the past two offseasons because of knee surgeries.
"A lot of these nagging leg pains are a direct result of that," Berkman said. "If I were able to do what I normally do in the offseason, I would probably be in really good shape in terms of running, and [the groin] probably wouldn't be a factor."
Berkman probably could have played through the pain Tuesday. Big leaguers do it all the time, but ...
"You don't want it to be a long, drawn out process, and the next thing you know, you have to go on the [disabled list]," Berkman said.
So an extra off-day can't hurt.
"I didn't think he was going to play [Tuesday]," Garner said. "I'll give him the extra day."
Home at last: Aubrey Huff finally got a feel for Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, when he made his home debut for the Astros.
"Driving around today," Huff said, "I just realized, 'Wow, this place is really nice' when you look around.' It's nicer playing in front of 40,000 a night. It's a little jolt for me."
Finally being in Houston is a jolt, too. Huff has been with the Astros since July 12, when he was acquired in a trade with the Devil Rays, but his first 10 games with his new club had been on the road.
Huff hasn't gotten a chance to settle down, with stops in Miami, Chicago and New York after the All-Star break.
"I've had five bags with me on every trip," Huff said. "I kept going down to the bellman to get my bag. It's good to get back and get settled down here."
In three Interleague games at Minute Maid Park, Huff was 2-for-11 with a double and two runs scored.
Bok, bok, bok: The foul poles at Minute Maid Park have a new look.
For starters, the poles are now the "Fowl Poles" because the Astros and Chick-fil-A reached a sponsorship agreement through 2008. The poles feature three renegade cows wearing Astros hats which carry the message of "Eat Mor Fowl."
In addition, the Chick-fil-A signage is now a target for Astros players. If an Astro knocks a home run off the "Fowl Pole," all fans in attendance can redeem their game tickets the following day for a free chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A.
"The cows on the 'Fowl Poles' are just waiting to give away free chicken sandwiches to Astros fans," said Bryan Bullington, owner/operator of Chick-fil-A Pearland. "We hope that there are several players who will hit the signs this season."
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