Notes: Fuentes out as closer for now
Taveras out of lineup with quad pain; Fogg watch begins
HOUSTON -- Brian Fuentes could hear Sunday if he's been chosen to his third straight All-Star Game, but he received less-positive news Saturday when Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told him he would be removed temporarily from the closer's role.
Fuentes has blown his last four save chances -- his last two on home runs to the Astros' Carlos Lee and Mark Loretta. His struggles have accounted for half of the eight straight losses the team has suffered, all on this road trip.
"It's like making a lineup adjustment, taking a guy out of the three-hole and putting him in five or some of the position players that I've actually sat down and not played," Hurdle said. "He's not going to be put away for awhile, but we're not going to stick our heads in the sand.
"We'd prefer it be temporary. That's what everybody's wish is. That's the reason why it's taking place."
Fuentes will be used in less-pressured situations. Hurdle did not commit to any of the relievers closing, even for Saturday night's third of a four-game set with the Astros.
Eighth-inning setup man Manny Corpas, a rookie who could have a future as a closer, is an option, but not Saturday, since he pitched in the previous three games. Former closers LaTroy Hawkins and Jorge Julio, and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt are other options.
Hurdle said Fuentes' problems could be mental, mechanical or both, but he declined to give further specifics. He said Fuentes handled the move "like a pro -- he's a high-character guy."
Fuentes' work over the course of the season could be All-Star worthy. He is 20-for-26 on save opportunities this season and still leads Major League left-handers in saves. He had converted all but two of his chances before this trip.
"I don't have any idea about that -- this has nothing to do with the All-Star team, it has everything to do with our team," Hurdle said.
Mysterious pain: Center fielder Willy Taveras was out of the lineup on Saturday with pain and tenderness in his lower right quadriceps. The origin of the problem hasn't been determined, although Taveras speculated it could be a reaction to food. He was waiting to talk to doctors before Saturday's game.
"It was bothering me during the night, it was cramping a little bit," Taveras said. "Then it was swollen."
Taveras said he did well on strength tests administered by head trainer Keith Dugger.
Buchholz an option: Add right-hander Taylor Buchholz to the list of Rockies who can't enjoy personal success because of the team's struggles. On this road trip, he has held opponents to one run in 6 1/3 innings, and one hit in the last three outings.
Buchholz threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings Friday night and was in line for the victory, but Loretta's two-run shot saddled Fuentes and the Rockies with a 9-8 loss.
"It's hard going out there and going from feeling like you couldn't lose to not being able to get anything to go our way," said Buchholz, who said he didn't feel any unnecessary emotion pitching against his former club in his former home. "It's a tough stretch, but it seems every team that you see kind of goes through this during the season."
Last season, Buchholz was with an Astros team that nearly overcame an 8 1/2-game deficit on Sept. 21 before finishing second in the National League Central, a half-game behind the eventual World Series champion Cardinals, so he knows a comeback is possible.
"The Astros have done things like that three years in a row, so there are teams that have been down a lot further in the standings and come back," he said.
Fogg watch: Josh Fogg's giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings was every bit as much to blame for Friday's loss as Fuentes' problems. Fogg displayed poor command of the strike zone for the second straight game.
Hurdle said he is not looking to make a change in the fifth starter's role, but Buchholz is a viable option should he make that decision.
"We need better from Josh," Hurdle said. "He was on a little bit of a roll, now he's on a roll the other way. Jason Hirsh hopefully showed he's taken a step forward his last outing.
"We've got some guys we've got to keep an eye on. We continually want to put ourselves in position to have our best five starters, so we continue to look at things. We try not to look at things day-to-day, but try to cluster a number of starts together to make an honest evaluation and an appropriate evaluation. We know we have Buchholz in play if we need him."
Up next: Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (4-1, 4.09 ERA) will face Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez (4-7, 4.57) in Sunday's series finale at 12:05 p.m. MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.