Hunter Pence's return pushed to Friday

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence likely won't return from a sprained left elbow until Friday.

Pence took some swings Monday and was expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers, in his hometown. He arrived at the ballpark still sore and the club decided to play it safe.

Manager Brad Mills said he would likely sit Pence on Wednesday as well, "unless all of a sudden he shows up and he's able to swing and everything is fine." With a day off Thursday, Pence would have even more time to be back at full strength before a weekend series at home against Tampa Bay.

"I think he realized this might be a little longer than he anticipated," Mills said. "He's trying to talk to me about pinch-hitting. I said, 'That's all I need is for you to get in there and hurt that thing and be out for another four, five days.'"

Pence leads the Astros with nine homers and 51 RBIs, and was fourth in the National League with a .321 batting average.

Mills said Pence did not reinjure himself during his swings Monday.

"The doctor had told him he can't do any more damage," Mills said. "That's what gave him a little more confidence to swing. But when he showed up and it wasn't 100 percent, that was it."

Catcher J.R. Towles also isn't likely to play until the Tampa Bay series because of soreness in his legs. Rookie Carlos Corporan made his sixth straight start on Tuesday night, with No. 7 on deck.

"(Towles) said he was better," Mills said. "It's hard to stick him in the lineup and then all of a sudden he says he can't go. ... Ideally for him, he probably won't be able to start until Friday either. But we'll see how it goes."