HOUSTON -- The Astros' organization-wide efforts to aid victims of Monday's devastating tornado in Oklahoma have trickled down to individual players. Left-handed reliever Travis Blackley picked up some baseball equipment Thursday for a family with three young children who were affected by the storm.
"This family had lost everything and being kids like they are, they were really concerned about all their baseball equipment being gone," Blackley said. "I'm just chipping in, doing what I can."
Blackley said he heard about the family through the wife of Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez played with the Astros' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City for 13 games in 2012.
Blackley got an Easton bat and a pair of spikes for each of the three kids.
"I bought the same brands so they wouldn't fight over them," Blackley said. "I've never seen a tornado in person, but you obviously see how dangerous they are with the destruction. It's not much, but hopefully it'll cheer them up."
The 30-year-old said he felt an especially personal connection to the matter because his son lives a few hours north of Moore, Okla. in Wichita, Kan, which is also located in the proverbial Tornado Alley.
Blackley also said he expects several other Astros players to follow suit for other families affected by the storm. The Astros have already been raising money for the American Red Cross' efforts in Oklahoma during the team's eight-game homestand by organizing a Mystery Grab Bags autograph fundraiser on Sunday and a "Jerseys Off Their Backs" silent auction that runs through May 28.
Cedeno, Dominguez return to Astros lineup
HOUSTON -- The Astros' lineup got two right-handed reinforcements back from injury on Friday against the A's in shortstop Ronny Cedeno and third baseman Matt Dominguez.
Cedeno has missed the last eight games -- mostly due to sinus issues that flared up when the team was in Pittsburgh last weekend. He hit ninth in the Houston order on Friday and started at shortstop in the Astros' 6-5 loss to the A's.
Cedeno said he lost weight and felt dizzy from the sinus problems. Houston manager Bo Porter said the 30-year-old also experienced some vomiting.
"I was extremely anxious to get him back," Porter said. "When you're dehydrated and dizzy, that can stay with you for a few days, even after the medicine and treatment wears off. So I wanted to see Ronny move around and be 100 percent for a few days before we brought him back."
The Astros exclusively faced right-handed starting pitchers against the Royals, and Cedeno is hitting just .103 against righties this season. He had a healthy .464 average off southpaws entering Friday.
Cedeno went 1-for-3 in the loss, lining a hit off A's starter Tommy Milone to continue a two-out rally in the fifth inning and later scoring on a Jose Altuve single.
Dominguez missed Wednesday's 3-1 win against Kansas City with a sore left quadriceps, but Porter said the third baseman could have played, if necessary.
"It was a planned two days rest," Porter said. "We gave him that day, because we had Thursday off and wanted to help him heal faster, give him a game to regroup and recover. He's healthy and ready to go."
Dominguez hit a solo home run Friday to ignite a five-run fifth inning and now has five home runs in his last 11 games.
"I'll just keep getting treatment and it's something I can keep playing through and it's not a big deal," he said. "It's just tight. It might not go away right away, but I'll continue treatment and eventually it will go away."
Healing Maxwell to begin rehab on Wednesday
HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Justin Maxwell, who's been out for a month with a fractured left hand that was expected to sideline him four to six weeks, said Friday he will travel to the club's extended spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., on Wednesday to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
If all goes well, Maxwell said he will report to Class A Quad Cities within a week to continue his rehab.
"It's just sore because I hold my bat with the pinkies over the knob, so when I go through the hitting zone there's additional pressure on the fracture site," he said. "It's not getting swollen, and Dr. [Tom] Mehlhoff said as long as it's not swollen, it's fine."
Maxwell took a big step in his recovery from his April 23 injury by taking 20 swings off hitting coach John Mallee in the cage Friday, and he said while his wrist is still sore, it's not getting any worse. Maxwell, who was hitting .234 with one homer and six RBIs in 77 at-bats, has been fitted with a protective plastic shield that attaches to his battling glove by Velcro.
"It was exciting last week when I got to hold a bat for the first time in three weeks," Maxwell said. "It's just exciting to see a live ball coming at you again and take some swings. You do it all offseason and to have to sit out for a while, it's frustrating."
Astros manager Bo Porter said the team doesn't want to rush him.
"We want to make sure the hand is 100 percent healed and he's able to take the impact of live pitching," he said. "That remains to be seen, but he's closer."
Norris remembers time with a special fan
HOUSTON -- His high school graduation pictures sits on a table in the middle of the Astros' clubhouse. Curt William England was 19 when he died of cancer on May 19, 2012 and more than a year earlier had met Astros pitcher Bud Norris when the team's annual winter Caravan stopped at a hospital.
England, a pitcher at Memorial High School in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, and Norris talked for about 20 minutes and became friends. Norris invited the family to Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, and his father presented the pitcher with a keepsake of his son.
"He had been an Astros fan his whole life and he talked about the trades of [Michael] Bourn and Hunter [Pence] and he really touched me that day," Norris said. "Unfortunately, I found out he passed. His father contacted me and I let him down on the field at the park the other day through my Candlelighter's Team 20 and got him and his family tickets.
"It was tough. His father got into tears and was definitely touched and it was nice to have him come out here and support the team. I know that Curt was a good kid, always smiling and stuff like that. We had the family out there and had a picture given to me and I have his Little League hat. I know Curt's upstairs and watching over us."
The Candlelighters provide emotional, educational and practical support to children with cancer and their families.
• Right-hander Josh Fields, taken by the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, has appeared in four games at Double-A Corpus Christi during his rehab assignment from a right forearm strain suffered in the first week of the season. Manager Bo Porter said the club would like to see Fields work consecutive games without any setbacks and hopes to make a decision on him within the next week.
• Porter said he still anticipates right-hander Bud Norris will make his next start despite leaving his last two with back tightness. Norris had a massage on Thursday's off-day and threw in the bullpen on Friday without incident.
• First baseman Jonathan Singleton, the top prospect in the Astros system, will begin his season Monday at Class A Quad Cities, general manager Jeff Luhnow said. He began the year with a 50-game suspension following his second positive drug test. Singleton will move to Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City before possibly being called up in September.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.