Jose Valverde continues to live up to his tough-guy reputation.

Last season, the Astros closer took a line drive off his face but remained in the game and got the save. On Tuesday, Valverde closed Houston's win against Los Angeles but not before taking a line drive off his ankle and pulling a calf muscle trying to field the ball.

"I felt it a lot," he told the Houston Chronicle. "It affected me a lot. I wanted to pitch. I wanted to support my team, and that's what I did today. They told me, 'It's early in the season right now. Take off the rest of the game, rest a little bit and we'll check how it feels tomorrow.'"

Instead, Valverde stayed in the game. He got Manny Ramirez to fly out and later struck out both James Loney and Russell Martin swinging to get the save in the 8-5, Astros win.

Lowell boosts average to .315 during streak: Hitting seventh for Boston this year, Mike Lowell leads the Red Sox with 16 RBIs and entered Friday riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he has seen his average go from .154 to .315. He has 12 RBIs during the streak and at least one RBI in each of those games.

"I wanted to try to slow things down," Lowell told the Boston Globe about making an adjustment at the plate after the slow start. "Sometimes, when you want to get a hit and you want to get a hit, you're too aggressive. I just wanted to try to let the at-bat come to me. I think it just relaxed me a little bit. I've been seeing the ball really well, and I've taken advantage of my pitch. I'm happy with the way I've been swinging the past week. I just hope it continues."

Cust can thank his dad for plate patience: Jack Cust waits for his pitch and hits the ball with great power when he does swing. It's an approach that Cust developed with his father while the two lived in New Jersey.

"I told him, 'Swing to hit it hard or don't swing,'" Jack Cust Jr. told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That's why Jack's so picky. All those fans who scream about him taking too many pitches -- it's my fault. But if you take pitches, you're going to strike out, especially if you're a power hitter."

Dunn trying to match power with average: Nationals manager Manny Acta believes that Adam Dunn, with his excellent eye at the plate, will have a year that includes a higher batting average than usual.

"He's shooting to hit .300 and drive in 100 and do the damage he does with his power," Acta told the Washington Post. "So I think he's off to a great start, and I think he can do it. When you have that knowledge of the strike zone, and you have the strength that this guy has, and when you walk as much as this guy does, I think you should be able to hit for a higher batting average."

Zito getting back to old form: Barry Zito was thrilled to hear the cheers from Giants fans in his last outing, when he pitched seven shutout innings.

"I'm just trying to get back to what I do best, which is pitch, be aggressive and attack guys," Zito told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm still healthy, and I'm more than capable of having the same stuff I had early in my career."

No trouble at this meeting for Sipp: When Tony Sipp was called into his manager's office for a private meeting, he could be forgiven for expecting the worst. It's how he learned things as a kid, after all.

"Coming up in school, you learn that if you're called to the office, you're in trouble," Sipp told MLB.com. "So I'm thinking, 'What did I do? I didn't pitch [Tuesday], and I don't think I did anything to anybody in the locker room.'"

Instead, Sipp was told he'd been promoted to the Major Leagues and made his debut on Wednesday against the Royals. Sipp worked the ninth inning and shut the opposition down with a scoreless frame that included one strikeout.

Ludwick fine with lending a hand when needed: With four starting outfielders in St. Louis, Ryan Ludwick still finds himself out of the lineup from time to time despite his .353 average, five home runs and 18 RBIs. But, he says, he just plays the hand he is dealt.

"It's the way it is right now. It doesn't bother me," Ludwick, told the Belleville News-Democrat. "We're winning ballgames. That's the most important part. Ultimately -- I think it's been out there -- I'd like to become that everyday guy. Is that the case right now? No.

"But I'm comfortable with the role I'm playing right now."

Gregg expects he'll have added roles: Though Kevin Gregg is still the closer for the Chicago Cubs, he knows that there will be many nights when someone else might get the ball in the ninth -- and many nights when he's asked to do something other than close, too. That, he says, is fine with him.

"We're a team, and we have to work together," Gregg told MLB.com. "It's a simple concept. My understanding, and the way I believe things work, is you have to lean on each other to be successful. Not one guy is going to pick up every situation."

Gordon will bring immediate support: Once reliever Tom Gordon is activated from the disabled list, it appears manager Bob Melvin will use him in crucial situations immediately.

"We could certainly use him," Melvin told the Arizona Republic. "He's a guy that, once he comes back, probably will be pitching in a prominent role for us."

Pelfrey ready to get back on mound: Two days after being scratched from his scheduled start against Milwaukee, Mike Pelfrey threw close to 70 pitches against seven hitters in a simulated game on Tuesday. Pelfrey missed his start due to right forearm tendinitis. Pelfrey said he is ready to start on Saturday for the Mets.

"I didn't feel it one time," Pelfrey told the New York Daily News. "I felt like the ball was jumping out of my hand for the first time in awhile. My command was off, but I haven't been on the mound for seven or eight days. I'm ready to go Saturday."

Schafer appreciative of Diaz's friendship: Matt Diaz reached out to Jordan Schafer last year, and it's a move Schafer will always appreciate. Schafer played high school ball with Diaz's younger brother, so Diaz knew that Schafer was a hard worker. Diaz never hesitated offering friendship to a younger player.

"I can't explain how much he's helped me in the last year," Schafer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "One of the reasons I'm here right now and not in [Triple-A] Gwinnett is because of him."

Maybin adapting to life in No. 8 spot: Cameron Maybin is learning that life in the eighth slot in the lineup requires patience.

"It seems like you only get one or two good pitches to hit, maybe not even two," Maybin told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "You have to really try to be patient, and when you get your good pitch, it's tough because you have to make good on it. It takes a little bit of time, but I think it's starting to come."

Pineiro relying on sinker: Joel Pineiro, who didn't get his third win of 2008 until July, has three in three starts this year. He credits the success to newfound confidence in his slider.

"I'm going to trust it all year," Pineiro told MLB.com. "It's going to be the pitch that I go to every time in situations where I need a double play. I'm going to pitch to contact every time. The first three to four pitches, if you get them to put the ball in play, your pitch count is going to be low. So I'll keep on riding that as long as I can."

-- Red Line Editorial