Brandon Barnes has benefited the most from Justin Maxwell’s left hand injury and subsequent rehab assignment. With Maxwell out of the Astros’ lineup, Barnes recently has been given an opportunity to showcase his skills in center field and has run with it.
Barnes is also the most appreciative of Maxwell’s return to the Astros’ starting lineup on Tuesday after missing 51 team games from injury and rehab. Maxwell was officially activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday and will start in right field.
Barnes, whose locker is next to Maxwell’s, on Tuesday taped a make-shift banner across Maxwell’s locker that read, ‘Welcome back.’
“He’s one of my best friends on the team,” said Barnes, who will be starting in center field for the 20th time in the Astros’ last 21 games on Tuesday. “We spend time off the field.
“He’ll help us big time, not only in the lineup but on defense. The mentality he brings to the field every day. I’m excited to have him back.”
So is Astros manager Bo Porter and Maxwell himself, who fractured his left hand on April 23 after being hit by a pitch thrown by Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma.
“Our defense and team just got better today,” said Porter.
The Astros have played well of late, going 16-15 since May 15. That period includes a recent six-game road winning streak and a just-completed home series with Chicago in which the Astros won three out of four games from the White Sox.
“I’m excited, I feel good, I’m glad to be back,” said Maxwell, who said he has been watching the progress of the team but wished he’d been on the field with his teammates. “I’m not a good cheerleader.
“You cherish every opportunity you get at the major league level and at this ballpark, the best in baseball.”
Maxwell said he’s pleased Barnes has come into his own in center field and that he doesn’t mind playing right field.
“Brandon and I pride ourselves on how we play defense,” said Maxwell. “I’m looking forward to playing right field. I’ve played all three outfield positions. My injury was unfortunate but he got to showcase his self. He’s definitely made the most of his opportunities.
”I know what kind of player he is. He’s real passionate. I’m excited for him.”
Porter likes the luxury of having Barnes and Maxwell in the same outfield.
“I love the fact that we have two centerfielders,” said Porter. “We have two center fielders that are more than capable of playing center field. Brandon has done a great job and we’ll continue to give him an opportunity.”
Prior to his injury Maxwell was hitting .234 in 20 games with the Astros with one home run and six RBIs. Last season Maxwell hit 18 home runs in 124 games with Houston.
Maxwell played in 11 games on a rehab assignment with Triple A Oklahoma City (five games) and Double A Corpus Christi (six games), going 5-for-39 with one homer and five RBIs.
In his 20 games this season with Houston, Maxwell batted second in the order 12 times. On Tuesday he’ll bat seventh in the order.
“We believe it’s the best spot right now,” said Porter.