Houston

Dusty Baker: Houston Astros expect to contend after Carlos Correa

“I think we have another chance to make it really far this year,” Jose Altuve mentioned not too long ago concerning the workforce throughout spring coaching.

HOUSTON — After what the Houston Astros have achieved in supervisor Dusty Baker’s first two seasons, he has no motive to assume they received’t take one other step ahead this year.

Editorial observe: The video above is from a earlier story.

“Two years ago, we were one game away from going to the World Series and last year we were two games away from winning the World Series,” Baker mentioned. “I like to believe in natural progression so the natural progression should be that we’ll win it.”

The Astros reached the World Series for the third time in 5 seasons final year earlier than falling to the Braves in six video games. Houston additionally lost the World Series in 2019 after profitable its solely title in 2017 in a season marred by the workforce’s sign-stealing scandal.

Now they’ll attempt to proceed their current run of success with out Carlos Correa after the famous person shortstop left for Minnesota in free company. The high general choose in 2012, Correa spent his total seven-year career with the Astros, changing into the face of the franchise and the undisputed chief of the workforce.

Despite his departure, the Astros stay assured that they are going to contend once more with a workforce that returns most everybody else from final year’s squad that went 95-67 to win the AL West for the fourth time in 5 years.

“We have a lot of great players in this locker room,” left fielder Michael Brantley mentioned. “We all know what we need to do to get ready for this season and we’ll continue to play at a high level as a team.”

Added second baseman Jose Altuve: “I think we have another chance to make it really far this year.”

The Astros didn’t make any splashy free agent signings to offset the lack of Correa, however normal supervisor James Click mentioned he didn’t imagine that was needed contemplating the workforce he has.

“We think we have a lot of depth in the bullpen, we have a lot of depth in the rotation, and we feel really good about the position player group we have,” he mentioned. “It is a roster that we feel very good about.”

Houston opens the season April 7 towards the Los Angeles Angels within the first of 9 straight highway video games earlier than the house opener April 18, which can also be towards the Angels.

NEW (OLD) LOOK

The most enjoyable addition to this workforce is the return of ace Justin Verlander. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner is again after final pitching within the majors on opening day in 2020. Verlander was injured in that begin and has been out after present process Tommy John surgical procedure.

The 39-year-old has seemed good this spring, however Baker mentioned Tuesday that Verlander possible received’t begin on opening day this year as a result of it doesn’t line up together with his schedule.

The Astros hope that he can return to his 2019 type when he led the AL with 21 wins and obtained his second Cy Young Award.

A meticulous planner, Verlander will strategy this season like he has each different season in his career. But he is aware of there might be some bumps alongside the best way after an virtually two-year absence.

“I think I’m kind of a case study on this one,” he mentioned. “A lot of guys that have Tommy John are younger or earlier in their career and don’t have 3,000 major league innings under their belt or close to it.”

Verlander’s return can even be a lift to a rotation that options three younger starters who will definitely profit from his management.

HOMER HAPPY

In the final two full seasons, excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Altuve has reached a career-high with 31 homers. The 5-foot-6, seven-time All-Star has actually loved exhibiting off his spectacular pop. But this season he’s trying to get again to the participant he used to be.

Altuve had 200 hits or extra to lead the AL for 4 straight seasons starting in 2014, however hasn’t had greater than 169 in a season since then. He’s additionally seen a drop in his batting common after profitable the AL batting title in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

“I got a little in love with homers the last two years,” he mentioned. “This year, yes homers are good, but I want to be more productive. Like get on base, go back to my game, get some hits and if the homers happen, they happen. I just not going to try to look for homers every time.”

ROOKIE TO WATCH

Houston is probably going to begin the season with only one rookie, however he’s vital: Jeremy Peña, the workforce’s high prospect, is predicted to take over for Correa at shortstop.

The 24-year-old was a third-round choose by the Astros in 2018 and superior to Triple-A final season the place he hit .287 with 10 homers and 19 RBIs in 30 video games. The Astros assume Peña has the instruments to be a star and are trying ahead to serving to him develop.

“I’m happy for Jeremy that he might get the opportunity to come and play in the big leagues and establish himself as a really good player,” Altuve mentioned. “I think Jeremy is going to come to the big leagues and make our team better. He has a lot of talent, a lot of great tools to show off.”

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