HOUSTON — The A's appear to be closer to getting starting shortstop Jed Lowrie back from the disabled list than they are utility infielder Nick Punto, although neither is all that far away.

Manager Bob Melvin said that Lowrie, who has started throwing, taking batting practice and otherwise testing the broken right index finger that sidelined him, could go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

``We don't know when,'' Melvin said when talking about the timing of any injury rehabilitation assignment for Lowrie. ``We're not quite there yet.''

As of Tuesday, Punto was said to be the closer of the two to be heading out on a rehab assignment. But Punto still has yet to test his injured hamstring in a full-out sprint, so his rehab assignment isn't as close at hand.

``I think this is my fourth hamstring injury,'' the 36-year-old Punto said. ``I know how to handle them. You can't push them too far; they'll tell you when they're ready. The other three hammys came when I was younger, too, and that makes a difference.''

  • Melvin said he was impressed by the job veteran Geovany Soto did in handling Jason Hammel in the catcher's first start for Oakland since coming over in a trade with the Rangers announced Sunday.

    Hammel and Soto had never worked together before Tuesday, and Hammel allowed just one run in seven innings.

    ``He set a good, low target and tried to keep Hammel down in the zone,'' Melvin, himself a catcher in his playing days, said. ``After three innings it looked like they'd worked together before.


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    ``It's what you'd expect of a veteran catcher.''