HOUSTON — Astros manager Brad Mills elected to give Brett Wallace the starting nod at first base and penciled him into the No. 5 spot in the lineup behind cleanup hitter Carlos Lee on Saturday night against the Colorado Rockies at Minute Maid Park.
Although Lee has been a mainstay at first base, he’ll get the start in left field, while rookie J.D. Martinez will shift over to right.
The 25-year-old Wallace, who entered the season as the Astros’ starting first baseman, hit .388 in the month of April, but struggled to maintain consistency and wound up being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 31 after a .182 mark in July.
With Lee excelling at first and Martinez stepping up as an everyday starter in left, the circumstances have left Wallace with minimal playing time since rejoining the Astros as a September call-up.
He has yet to record a hit over 11 at-bats this month entering Saturday, thus influencing Mills to give the youngster a spot start.
Also, Wallace is hitless in his last 28 at-bats.
“We need to get Wally some at-bats,” Mills said. “He’s the only guy who hasn’t had a start recently. We would like to get him some at-bats so he can work on things. We would like to see J.D. Martinez out in right, as well, to see how he moves and reacts.”
Lee doesn’t mind getting re-introduced to left field.
“I gave Al [Pedrique] the lineup after last night’s game,” Mills said. “He went and talked to Carlos. It was all taken care of and fine. The time after games before doing a post-game press conference is when I go over the following day lineups with Al. When I’m doing the press conferences, he goes and talks to the guys. I tell him exactly what to say and who we’re talking to.”
By giving Wallace a spot start at first base, Mills finds himself curious on how Martinez will perform in right field, considering the Astros will enter 2012 with several starting jobs up in the air and plenty of competition to seize potential opportunities that may arise.
“J.D. has played out there in right,” Mills said. “We put [Matt] Downs out there last night and he did a pretty good job. J.D. has done a good job in left, so let’s see what he does in right. This allows us to move things around a little bit to give Wally some at-bats.
“How much have you heard me talk about the competition in Spring Training? I think this kind of helps breed that a little bit. Things are not set in stone. That’s not a knock on any guy, but that’s what it is. We have enough guys to compete for spots.
Wallace enters Saturday hitting .259 with four homers, 26 RBI and 22 doubles over 328 at-bats in 111 games for the Astros this season.
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