HOUSTON -- Even though Astros catcher Carlos Corporan blocked sliding Angels infielder David Freese with his left leg during a play at the plate in the second inning Saturday, Astros manager Bo Porter said Sunday he thought his backstop was within the new rules that are designed to prevent home-plate collisions.
It wound up not mattering because Corporan couldn't handle the throw, but he dropped his left knee to the ground and appeared not to provide a path for Freese, who slid head first and was called safe.
Freese said home-plate umpire Eric Cooper told him he would've been ruled safe anyway because Corporan didn't give him a lane to slide through when he didn't have the ball, and straddling the plate doesn't qualify as providing a lane.
Porter believes his catcher provided a clear path to the plate.
"I think Corporan gave him a sliding lane," Porter said. "If Corporan would have come up with the ball and made the tag, he would have been out and Corporan dropped the ball, so it's a moot point."
Corporan didn't block the plate until he got the ball, and the rules state the catcher must give a sliding lane for the runner and not block the plate without the ball.
"As the catcher, you can't be in front of the plate or drop down in front of the baserunner without the baseball," Porter said. "I felt like Corporan was in good position. He had the sliding lane and he just didn't control the ball through the tag."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, said interpretations involving plays at the plate are still evolving when it comes to the new rule.
"The old adage about how you really don't want to go head first into home plate might not be as relevant if you have a lane to slide in if you have the play beat because you will most times be presented with a swipe tag instead of a leg," he said.
Fowler out of hospital, resting at home
HOUSTON -- At home recuperating from a stomach virus that had forced him to the hospital, Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn't at the ballpark for Sunday's game against the Angels. Manager Bo Porter said doctors wanted him to continue to rest at home.
"We'll continue to monitor it and hopefully get him back soon," Porter said.
When asked if Fowler would be available to travel with the team to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday, Porter wasn't sure.
"When you start talking about a virus running through your body, it takes time," he said. "We don't know how much longer it's going to be. We know the doctors are treating him and we'll see how the rest of [Sunday] goes."
Fowler hasn't played since going 6-for-12 in the Astros' season-opening series win over the Yankees. He went 2-for-4 in each of the three games with two doubles, a triple and a home run, becoming the first player to record at least two runs and two extra-base hits in the first two games of a season since Barry Bonds in 2002.
"He was off to a great start, and we like having that guy at the top of the lineup and manning center field," Porter said. "Not only that, the energy he brings to the ballclub off the field as well is missed in all those areas."
While the Astros have missed Fowler, they're fortunate to have Alex Presley available to play center field in his absence (he started Friday and Sunday). The Astros were going to carry 13 pitchers to enter the season before claiming Presley off waivers just prior to the start of the season in a move that has been beneficial.
"It was definitely something you look at now and had we not made that decision, it would have been very difficult with everything that's happened to Dexter the last few days here," Porter said.
Williams gives teammates scouting report on Angels
HOUSTON -- Astros relief pitcher Jerome Williams, who spent the last three years with the Angels, has been helping out his current teammates during this weekend's series against the Halos by giving some scouting reports about his former team.
"I know every last one of them over there," said Williams, who went 9-10 with a 4.57 ERA in 37 games (25 starts) for the Angels last year. "Besides [David] Freese and the bench besides [Hank] Conger, I know everybody there. I know their swings; I know what they try to do."
Williams even has a knack for how veteran manager Mike Scioscia operates during games. He anticipated a hit-and-run earlier in the series with John McDonald at the plate and Erick Aybar on base.
"He put that lineup out there for a reason based on how guys produce, and he wants to have guys that have roles that know what they can do," he said.
When it comes to Mike Trout, Williams said the secret is to pitch down in the zone. Trout was 1-for-5 on Saturday with three strikeouts.
"You can still get a ball down in the zone and get him out," Williams said. "It happened with [pitcher Dallas] Keuchel and it happened with Matty [Albers]," he said. "He's still human."
Castro returns to lineup, homers in first at-bat
HOUSTON -- All-Star catcher Jason Castro returned to the lineup Sunday after missing the previous two games with a bruised right foot in the ankle area. His ankle was still wrapped with tape, but he was happy the injury wasn't more serious.
"I could have been worse possibly, but I'm just thankful it wasn't and it's just a pretty bad bruise and some soreness," Castro said. "There's nothing wrong with it. You just have to get over that hump, and I think we're pretty much there."
In his first at-bat back in the lineup on Sunday, Castro knocked a two-run homer to left-center field off Angels starter Jered Weaver.
Castro was hit by two pitches in his first two plate appearances Thursday. The first one was a glancing blow, but the second one caught him flush on the foot/ankle area.
He said he doesn't plan to wear extra padding to protect the right foot.
"I don't really plan on getting hit on the front of the foot again," he said. "I don't think what I have would have really done much anyway, so I'll just wear the normal shin guards I wear for the inside of my ankle and try to get out of the way."
Castro missed the final three weeks of last season after having a cyst removed from his right knee, the same knee that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus that spring. In December 2011, he underwent surgery to remove the sesamoid bone in his left foot.
Crain to continue rehab in Florida, eyes May return
HOUSTON -- While the rest of his teammates head north of the border Monday night in advance of a three-game series against the Blue Jay in his native Toronto, relief pitcher Jesse Crain will fly to Kissimmee, Fla., to continue his rehab at Osceola County Stadium.
Crain, who didn't pitch in the second half of last year after being traded to the Rays and underwent surgery in October, is hoping to return to action by May after undergoing biceps tendinitis surgery. He hopes to progress enough to throw in some extended spring games in the next week or 10 days.
"I think once I'm to that point, it'll be pretty quick for me to come back," he said. "It's getting to know how I feel and feeling 100 percent."
Crain has thrown off the mound twice this spring, but he stopped short of calling those full bullpen sessions.
"I consider a bullpen actually pitching and throwing breaking pitches," he said. "That's why I'm saying the things I've done are just throwing off the mound. The more I get a feel for it, I'll see if I can get through it. A bullpen is where I'm pitching and letting the ball go and throwing it where I want to throw it and throwing breaking balls and all that."
The Astros continue to proceed cautiously with Crain, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract to pitch for his hometown team. Crain was an All-Star in a 2013 season in which he posted a 0.74 ERA in 38 games with the White Sox, striking out 46 and walking only 11 batters in 36 2/3 innings, including a 29-inning scoreless streak.
Crain was born in Toronto, but only lived in Canada for three months. He said his parents where there for work when he was born.