Lowrie set to return to lineup, will play third base

Lowrie set to return to lineup, will play third base

HOUSTON -- Without making a trade, the Astros will add an impact bat to their lineup for Thursday night's series finale against the Angels when infielder Jed Lowrie is activated from the disabled list for the first time in more than three months.

Lowrie, who had to have surgery after tearing a ligament in his thumb, sliding into home plate April 27 in San Diego, will start at third base. He began the season as the starting shortstop, but the emergence of rookie Carlos Correa has forced the Astros to find somewhere else to play Lowrie, a switch-hitter.

"We're excited to get him back in the lineup and in the flow of what we're doing," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

To make room on the roster for Lowrie, veteran pitcher Roberto Hernandez has been designated for assignment, leaving the Astros with 12 pitchers again.

Lowrie, 31, was having a solid start to the season when he got injured. He was hitting .300 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 60 at-bats, with a .432 on-base percentage. He's exactly the kind of hitter the Astros' strikeout-heavy and home-run-reliant offense needs.

"He was one of the most productive players prior to the injury," Hinch said. "Ideally, he picks up right where he left off in April and competes on both sides of the ball. He'll be fine at third. There will be a little bit of getting used to the angles and some of plays he needs to make. He may see some time at other positions around the field, but when it comes to preparing to play and contributing at this level, Jed will be perfectly fine."

Lowrie has played 83 games in the big leagues at third base, mostly recently with Boston in 2011. He's also seen time at second base in his career, but has more than 500 games under his belt at shortstop. He played exclusively third base, though, while on Minor League rehab at Double-A Corpus Christi.

"I'm comfortable with him at third," Hinch said. "He's a good infielder, and his instincts will be fine over there. I'm not sure how often I'm going to play him there, where I'm going to mix in his at-bats. I've got a juggling act that's going to go on here, specifically if our guys keep swinging the bats the way we did tonight."

If Lowrie gets the majority of at-bats at third the rest of the way, that means Luis Valbuena will join Chris Carter and Jon Singleton in the first base/designated hitter mix. All three are high-strikeout players with lots of power, and Carter homered Tuesday and Singleton went deep Wednesday.

"Obviously, it's something I'm going to have to think about every day when you have guys that are versatile enough to move around the field but also productive enough to field," Hinch said.

The Astros are going back to 12 pitchers for the foreseeable future, but Hinch says roster composition will be fluid going forward.

"We'll mix and match," he said. "If we need pitchers, we've got some option-able pieces we can move around, specifically now that guys have options on the bench, guys have option in the bullpen. If we get caught a little bit, we've got some reinforcements in Triple-A."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.