ARLINGTON -- If Jose Altuve had his way, he'd be taking Astros hitting coach John Mallee to the All-Star Game with him.
"He's one of the best hitting coaches I've ever worked with," he said.
Altuve, who will represent the Astros when he suits up for the American League in next week's All-Star Game, credits Mallee for helping him blossom into one of the best hitters in the game this year. He entered Wednesday leading the American League in batting average (.341) and stolen bases (41) and pacing the Majors in hits (126) and multi-hit games (39).
"Man, I think he's the one who's having a good season for me," Altuve said. "We are working together and early this year we talked about doing some changes about mechanics, and obviously it's helped me a lot. He's a guy that should be in the All-Star Game for me."
Mallee and assistant hitting coach Ralph Dickenson worked with Altuve this year to be more selective at the plate and mechanically try to change his stride so he stays in motion throughout the entire swing.
"We basically got rid of the early stride and stayed in motion, so now when he recognizes pitches, he recognizes it during his stride as opposed to when his foot is on the ground," Mallee said. "His stride timing became better and his overall timing became better, and that's why he's hitting more pitches than he was in the past. He's hitting the ball hard, too, because he's staying in motion."
Altuve is so appreciative of what Mallee has done for him that he gave him the bat he used to get his 500th career hit earlier this year.
"That's something that means a lot to be able to hit 500 in the big leagues," Altuve said. "He's the guy that's been helping me do this. He's a tremendous hitting coach, and I want to keep working with him in all the years coming up. I gave him the bat to tell him, 'I'm glad we're working together.'"
Mallee takes pride in how well Altuve has done.
"We care so much about all of our guys, me and Ralph," he said. "For a player of his caliber, or any of our guys, to give us credit is nice. At the end of the day, they're the ones in the box, they're the ones hitting. We do the best we can to prepare them and give them the information on how the swing works and also the best approach against that day's pitcher."
Springer impersonates Superman with highlight catch
ARLINGTON -- All that was missing was the cape.
Astros high-flying rookie center fielder George Springer made the kind of catch that Superman would have applauded when he crashed into the wall in the third inning of Wednesday's game at Globe Life Park to corral a fly ball off the bat of the Rangers' Alex Rios.
The catch brought oohs and aahs from the crowd and will likely go down as one of the best grabs of the season.
"It was one of those balls where it was hit and I got a good jump on it and was just able to get it," said Springer, who played the role of modest superhero.
Springer, who was in the starting lineup in center field for only the fourth start of his Major League career, was running full speed when he jumped into the wall an instant before catching Rios' hit. Springer lost his sunglasses as he fell back and rolled onto the ground, but held onto the ball for the out.
Rangers manager Ron Washington came out to talk to the umpires as if he was going to challenge the play, perhaps thinking that Springer trapped the ball against the wall, but he opted not to. The catch was as clean as could be.
"I knew I was getting close [to the wall]," Springer said. "I just didn't know how close I was, and as I jumped I could tell."
That's because his face met the padded wall as soon as he left his feet, while he reached over his head to somehow make the catch. Fortunately for the Astros, Springer wasn't injured.
"He's a tough kid, and it's padded," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "When you play the game the way he plays the game, you're going to have some crash and burn. That's what makes him special."
Rios was as shocked as everybody to see Springer hold onto the ball.
"Oh no, I wasn't expecting him to catch it," he said. "But yep. He caught it."
Springer played center field throughout his time in the Minor Leagues until this year, when he was moved to right field to accommodate Dexter Fowler, whom the Astros acquired in a trade from the Rockies. Alex Presley got the bulk of the starts in center when Fowler got hurt, but Presley was injured Monday.
Astros to evaluate McHugh's status after Thursday
ARLINGTON -- The Astros are expected to wait until right-hander Collin McHugh throws in the bullpen Thursday at Minute Maid Park to determine whether they'll go ahead and allow him to make his next start, scheduled for Saturday against the Red Sox. He left Sunday's game at the Angels after four innings when the nail in his middle finger of his throwing hand (right) pulled away from the skin.
McHugh played catch in the outfield Wednesday at Glove Life Park without incident, but that's not nearly as intense as getting on the mound and trying to throw pitches.
"It's kind of unpredictable," McHugh said. "I could see them going either way with it for the next start."
If McHugh can't pitch Saturday, they'll likely move up Jarred Cosart to throw Saturday and Brad Peacock to throw Sunday considering the club has day off on Thursday.
"If he makes it through with no problems, he's still in the rotation," Porter said. "We'll wait until after [Thursday] to make a decision."
McHugh (4-8) has lost his last five starts, but he hasn't pitched too poorly in that span. He's 0-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 28 innings, having allowed just 21 hits while striking out 33 innings batters.
Castro out of Astros' lineup, but feeling better
ARLINGTON -- Astros catcher Jason Castro felt good enough to play Wednesday night, but manager Bo Porter kept him out of the starting lineup against the Rangers for a third consecutive game after he came down Sunday night with an undiagnosed pain in his left armpit.
While Castro doesn't know the cause of the pain, it has subsided with medication and rest. He said he could have played, and Porter said he could be used Wednesday in a pinch-hit situation.
"I feel a lot better today," Castro said. "The treatments and the anti-inflammatories have really been doing what they're supposed to, so it looks like hopefully it's behind us and I'm going to hit on the field today. I hit in the cage already and it even felt better than it did [Tuesday]. I'm pretty happy about that and should be fine moving forward."
Castro was hitting .462 (6-for-13) in three games prior to the injury after getting moved into the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Porter said since the team is scheduled to have a day off on Thursday, there was no use rushing Castro back too soon.
"We don't want there to be anything that would be a concern moving forward," he said. "Could he play today? He could probably play. Would he be pain free? Probably not. We'll take today and with the off-day tomorrow and the progress he's made, by Friday it will be completely behind us."
As for what caused the pain, Castro still isn't sure.
"Unless I was to get a blood test, I don't think they have a definitive answer," Castro said. "I think the best guess is that it was some kind of irritation with the lymph node. It wasn't swollen, necessarily. They couldn't find any swollen nodes in there, but some kind of irritation with it, and that's what was causing the pain."
Porter and his wife and son joined bench coach Dave Trembley, assistant hitting coach Ralph Dickenson and first-base coach Tarrick Brock and his two sons in taking a tour of AT&T Stadium -- the home of the Dallas Cowboys -- on Wednesday. It sits next door to Globe Life Park.
"It's awesome," Porter said. "I've been there before, but today was the first time I had an opportunity to go in the home clubhouse. It's a special place."