Notes: 'Super Joe' back in the bigs

Notes: 'Super Joe' back in the bigs

DENVER -- The turnaround time between Joe McEwing finding out that he was called up to the big leagues and his arrival in the visitor's clubhouse in Denver on Sunday morning was only about eight hours, but the travel-weary utilityman had no issues with the lack of sleep.

McEwing was given the word at around 11 p.m. CT on Saturday after the Triple-A Round Rock Express completed a rain-delayed game at the Dell Diamond, and he was on a 7 a.m. flight to Denver on Sunday. He arrived about 90 minutes before the start of the Astros' finale at Coors Field.

"It's well worth it," McEwing said.

The 33-year-old McEwing was hitting .269 this season with two home runs and 11 RBIs for the Express at the time of his callup. A veteran of eight Major League seasons, McEwing has played for the Cardinals, Mets and Royals, compiling a .252 average.

McEwing's strength is his versatility. He can play seven positions, minus pitcher and catcher. He played mainly third base for Round Rock but also spent a few games in the outfield.

McEwing will be asked to fill in for Chris Burke, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a dislocated left shoulder.

Having played 747 games in the big leagues, McEwing was anxious to return and was thrilled to be called up.

"It was very good news," he said. "You want to compete at the highest level, and you want to compete against the best every day. Every time it happens, it's still a wonderful thing."

On Burke: As Burke traveled to Houston, where he'll undergo an MRI on Monday, manager Phil Garner lamented the loss of his young infielder/outfielder and praised his hustle on the play that knocked him out of commission for a while.

Burke slammed into the right-field wall while catching a Garrett Atkins fly ball, dislocating his left shoulder. He held onto the ball, however, even while writhing in pain.

"He didn't slow down at all," Garner said. "He went full steam."

Burke actually hit the wall with his right shoulder, but the momentum caused him to spin to his left, thrusting his shoulder against the wall and causing it to pop out of the socket.

"When you do that, it's very, very sore," Garner said. "You're sore and weak, and you're vulnerable for a few days. It's a good thing it wasn't his throwing shoulder. I don't know what you'd have to do at that point."

All-Star catcher? As the manager of the National League All-Star team, Garner will have the daunting task of picking a handful of players from a pool of dozens who are deserving of consideration for a trip to Pittsburgh.

Among the candidates will be several Astros players -- Lance Berkman. Morgan Ensberg. Brad Ausmus.


Yes, Ausmus. The catcher entered Sunday's game sixth in the league with a .342 average and fourth with a .457 on-base percentage. He's leading all National League catchers in hitting, on-base percentage and walks.

Garner will base his decisions on logic over emotions, but having managed Ausmus in both Detroit and Houston, the skipper most certainly has a soft spot for the veteran.

Of course, he would never admit it. Garner jokingly guaranteed that nothing would stand between Ausmus and his yearly All-Star hiatus to Martha's Vineyard.

"Baloney!" Garner said, laughing. "He's not stopping in Pittsburgh. I've got the hammer on him, and I'm going to squeeze."

Whirlwind schedule: Including Sunday's finale in Denver, the Astros are in the middle of a stretch that has them playing three games in three cities over a three-day span.

The Astros will play in San Francisco on Monday as a makeup game for their rainout in early April. They will leave immediately after that game for Los Angeles, where they'll play a three-game series beginning on Tuesday.

"It could be worse," Garner said. "Look what San Francisco has to do."

Good point. The Giants were in Philadelphia over the weekend, and their game on Sunday was scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET to accommodate ESPN's Sunday Game of the Week.

This means they would fly through the night to return to San Francisco as the sun was coming up Monday morning, catch a few hours of sleep and head to the ballpark on what would have been an off-day had it not been for the rainouts during the Astros series three weeks ago.

The Astros, on the other hand, were scheduled to arrive in San Francisco early on Sunday evening.

"I'm not complaining," Garner said. "I have no complaints. It is what it is. I wish we had a day game tomorrow, but I'm not complaining."

Ensberg looked at the bright side, citing the first-class travel accommodations as a benefit during these "taxing" parts of the schedule.

"The travel is accommodating," Ensberg said. "It isn't always the easiest thing, but we have it the best that it can be."

Miller on the mend: Left-hander Trever Miller started Sunday's game between the Round Rock Express and the Omaha Royals, facing three batters and throwing a total of 17 pitches -- 11 for strikes. He induced a pop fly, recorded a strikeout and worked a ground-ball out to second base.

Miller is on a rehab assigment after spending three weeks on the disabled list with a left elbow sprain. He'll pitch again for the Express on Wednesday and will join the Astros in Los Angeles on Thursday. If all goes well, he will be activated from the disabled list on either Friday or Saturday.

Coming up: The Astros will travel to San Francisco to play one game with the Giants on Monday. Right-hander Roy Oswalt (5-1, 2.86 ERA) will face left-hander Noah Lowry (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Astros will then travel to Los Angeles for a three-game set with the Dodgers, beginning on Tuesday.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.