ANAHEIM -- While the Astros' offense still leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts, Houston has cut down its strikeout rate dramatically since the first week of the season, when it was fanning at a record rate.
The Astros struck out 82 times and drew only 10 walks in the first seven games of the season, going 1-6 in that span. They struck out 31 times and drew 16 walks -- a much better ratio -- over the next four games, going 3-1 in that span.
"Early in the year, there was a lot of aggression, and the aggression led to a lot of swings at balls out of the strike zone," manager Bo Porter said. "You're now starting to see guys manage the at-bats and they're locking into the strike zone and they're making the pitchers come back into the strike zone.
"We're just being more disciplined and not expanding the strike zone, and we're getting better pitches to hit."
A great individual example is outfielder Chris Carter, who was hitting .115 (3-for-26) with 13 strikeouts in the first seven games, and entered Sunday hitting .526 (10-for-19) with four homers, seven RBIs and five strikeouts in the previous four.
"He's swinging at better pitches," Porter said. "Early on in the year he was chasing balls down and out of the zone. When you stop chasing those pitches, it's not like they want to walk to you. What happens is you bring them back to the plate. And when this guy gets a ball on the plate, he's a strong man."
Martinez begins rehab, could return next weekend
ANAHEIM -- Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez, who's been on the disabled list since March 27 with a strained left oblique, was in the lineup at designated hitter on Sunday for Triple-A Oklahoma City as he begins a Minor League rehab assignment.
The Astros are hoping to get Martinez, a left-handed bat with power, back in Houston in time for next weekend's series against the Indians.
"We want him to get a steady diet of at-bats until we come home, and we'll make a determination on the off-day [Thursday] whether or not he's ready, and if he is we'll figure out what the right move is," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We always targeted the end of the road trip and beginning of the next homestand as the earliest possible date we could have him back. I'm hoping, based off what he does in the next couple of days, he'll show us he's ready."
Martinez was set to open the season on the 25-man roster, but he was injured in late spring and has been working out at extended spring camp in Kissimmee, Fla. Last season with the RedHawks, Martinez was a staple of the middle of the lineup, hitting .314 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs.
Right-hander Ely to have Tommy John surgery
ANAHEIM -- Another pitcher in the Astros organization is headed for Tommy John surgery.
Right-hander John Ely, who was in Major League camp with the Astros before opening the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, is set to undergo the season-ending surgery, RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco said on his pregame interview show Saturday.
Ely, who was acquired in a trade with the Dodgers in December, joins right-hander Alex White, acquired from the Rockies in December, in having their 2013 seasons ended due to an ulnar collateral ligament tear in the elbow. White had surgery Thursday.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Sunday that the rehab process from Tommy John surgery is important for players to adhere to properly so they can return healthy and in a timely manner. He says not doing it the proper way can slow your recovery time.
"The grind of the rehab is really unbelievable," he said. "You're usually at the extended Spring Training complex, you're the only big leaguer there, you're having to do work every day. It's tough work. You're not in games. It's a grind, and you have to keep your focus and give 100 percent to your rehab the way you would your baseball training, otherwise it can really make a difference between a successful rehab and not able to come back 100 percent."