From searching for a center fielder to having three of them, that's been the Astros' progression between late April and now, with Thursday's game being a prime example.
Starter Brandon Barnes got a breather against the Brewers, giving Justin Maxwell the first action at his old spot since fracturing his left hand on April 23. Maxwell came off the DL Monday, starting the first two games against Milwuakee, but he played right field in both of them.
"It's a good thing to have all these options," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "It's actually made our outfield better when you have two guys capable of playing center."
Trevor Crowe started in right, where he had just earned the everyday starting nod before Maxwell's comeback.
"Even with Trevor out there today, you've got another experienced guy who's played middle outfield," Porter said. "That's also the luxury of Trevor being a switch-hitter, that there are three days in a row we're facing righties, so you can give a guy like Brandon a day off."
Maxwell is 1-for-6 with two walks and two runs scored while playing right field through two games. Porter said Maxwell looks healthy as ever, shoring up any concerns about the injured hand.
"He looks fine, like he's strong," Porter said. "His wrist is holding up, so there's no problems there. As the at-bats go along, Justin Maxwell is capable of getting hot and carrying a ballclub."
Crowe to disabled list after collision with wall
HOUSTON -- The Astros placed right-fielder Trevor Crowe on the 15-day disabled list after he sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder during the sixth inning of Thursday's 7-4 win over the Brewers.
Crowe smashed the shoulder into the right-center field fence chasing Jonathan Lucroy's home run, narrowly missing the ball and losing his glove as he tumbled to the warning track. He remained there for a few minutes, clutching his shoulder and wincing in pain.
"I had a great read on the ball," Crowe said. "I feel like if I just had another 6-8 inches, I would've been able to jump and catch the ball. I accelerated and jumped, and the wall won. It's almost like the catch was playing in my mind and almost as instantaneously, I was looking up at the roof."
After attending to Crowe, Astros manager Bo Porter removed him from the game, moving Justin Maxwell over to right field in Crowe's place and inserting Brandon Barnes in center field.
Crowe was making his first start in three games and went 1-for-3 in the leadoff spot, but he was thrown out at third trying to stretch his only hit into a triple during the first inning. He also collected an RBI on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning.
"It [stinks] for a couple of reasons. One, you see how much fun we're having right now," Crowe said. "We're playing good as a team, we're winning, You see Carlos[Pena] hit that walk-off.
"And two, coming into the series, I made a slight adjustment on my swing and three of the last four at-bats I took, I thought I hit the ball really good, on the barrel. I was really excited to take that adjustment forward."
Crowe had started seven of nine games in right field before Maxwell returned from a hand injury on Tuesday. He also had a pinch-hit single in Tuesday's game.
The outfielder said there is no timetable on his return from the injury. Porter said he doesn't want to see Crowe change his playing style when he does recover.
"Trevor's an all-out player, and that's really the only way he knows to play," Porter said. "It's unfortunate he suffered an injury giving the type of effort he did on that ball."
The Astros called up outfielder Marc Krauss from Triple-A Oklahoma City to replace Crowe on the roster. Krauss, 25, hit .277 with nine homers and 35 RBIs through 65 games with the RedHawks this season. His first game with the Astros will be his Major League debut.
Astros ink deal with 10th-round pick Nicely
HOUSTON -- The Astros locked down another high pick from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, as high school pitcher Austin Nicely signed a deal with the team in Houston.
Nicely, a left-handed starter out of Spotswood High School in Virginia, was the club's 10th-round pick. A lanky two-sport athlete at Spotswood, Nicely turned down a commitment to the University of Virginia to pursue a pro career.
"I'm happy it's finally a done deal," Nicely said. "It's definitely the toughest decision I've had to make in my life. It's a dream becoming reality for me, and I couldn't pass that up."
The Astros have now signed 24 of their 40 Draft picks, including eight of the top 10.
Nicely wrapped up the deal while on the final leg of a vacation with his family, and Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias gave them the tour of the locker room and had a custom-made jersey ready for Nicely.
Typically, Draft picks beyond the second or third round are signed remotely, but Nicely wanted to be in Houston for the occasion.
"It just happened to work out that it was easier for me to get out here than it was for them to get to me," Nicely said. "It's a special feeling, signing and being here to take the moment in."
It just so happens Nicely's favorite player growing up was former Astros All-Star closer Billy, who is also a Virginia native. Though Nicely said he doesn't emulate Wagner in style, it still made him eager to join his idol's former team.
"He was a lefty, threw way harder than I do and was from Virginia, a local boy," Nicely said of Wagner. "I like the way he came at people and challenged people. Just a bulldog out there. If I could pick my career to be like his, I'd take it right now."
Elias said the Astros aren't going the closer route with Nicely, and they will assign him to the club's Gulf Coast League rookie squad in the coming weeks.
"We're going to develop Austin as a starting pitcher," Elias said. "He's got a number of pitches already, including a changeup that's rare to see from a high schooler, that he can throw with great delivery. He's got pro potential."
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.