Gomez close to 100 percent

Gomez close to 100 percent

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch has set Sunday or Monday for a possible return to the lineup by Carlos Gomez, who has missed the last 11 games with a mild intercostal strain, but Hinch didn't rule out using Gomez as early as Friday if the right situation arose.

Gomez spent a portion of batting practice running the bases from both a standstill and taking a lead, sliding and diving back to first base, looking 100 percent as he went through all the drills.

Hinch said that Gomez would be available as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement when the team opens its crucial three-game series against the American League West-leading Rangers on Friday.

"We're inching closer and closer to testing him at full speed," Hinch said. "Runs are at a premium, and certainly, when you have the type of speed we have on the bench, I'd love to use them."

Gomez feels fine while running, throwing and fielding, but his swing is taking a while to return. He's still swinging a regulation bat at around 50 percent or 60 percent, but took BP in the cages prior to Friday's game.

"I'm close," Gomez said. "Not 100 percent. Last time I [swung] like 50, 60 percent, and I feel really good. Today I'm going to put a little more effort and see how I feel. I did soft toss Wednesday, and it went well. I hit around like 40, 35 balls."

Cognizant of the magnitude associated with these three games against the Rangers, Gomez said that it's frustrating to see his return come so slowly, but he is mindful that any setback could sideline him for potential postseason play.

Gomez believes that when he returns, his presence will change the club's dynamic.

"These games we're playing are important games, and I need to be in there," he said. "I'm not a Superman, I know I'm not a guaranteed win for my team, but if I'm in there, I can make the difference and help and win games."

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.