Keppinger’s return creates roster decisions
Jeff Keppinger, who was the Astros’ most consistent hitter last year and led them in doubles, is expected to make his 2011 debut by the end of the month, which begs the question: What will the Astros do when Keppinger returns?
It’s no secret Bill Hall has struggled, so perhaps they slid Hall back into a utility role and give Keppinger consistent at-batsat second base. Perhaps they part ways with Hall, even though that would cost them a few million dollars. But there’s no doubt Keppinger’s ability to put the ball in play is something the Astros can certainly use.
Astros outfielder Jason Michaels will be activated from the disabled list Friday, and infielder Joe Inglett will be the odd man out. That sets the stage for the next roster move upon Keppinger’s return.
Keppinger will begin a Minor League rehab assignment Thursday night for Double-A Corpus Christi, which plays in Frisco, Texas. Keppinger will play nine innings at second base Thursday and Saturday and serve as designated hitter Friday and Sunday before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“Once I get there it’s going to be based on how I’m feeling,” said Keppinger, who underwent surgery Jan. 14 to remove the sesamoid bone from his foot. “I’m excited to be able to get out of here and play some competitive ball. My foot’s been feeling pretty good for a week and a half now, two weeks. It’s not like it was bad before, but it just ached a little bit when I did a lot of work.”
Keppinger, who hit .288 with a team-high 34 doubles and drove in 59 runs in 137 games last year, has been playing extensively in extended spring in recent days and then doing sprints and leg lifts to build up his strength. He’s had about 40 at-bats and is eager to see better pitching.
“Once you get out of there, you can actually start feeling the excitement of getting back,” he said.
Of course, Keppinger has been following the Astros during the first six weeks of the season, while talking to teammates like Jason Michaels, Chris Johnson and Bud Norris.
“I had one of the trainers down here post a boxscore every day when I come in,” he said. “I don’t have a computer – my wife took it home a week and a half ago – but I would get on the computer when they were playing. I’m ready to get back.”