The Runner Sports

Altuve, Beltran, Bregman, Correa Lead 8 Astros To World Baseball Classic

The quadrennial World Baseball Classic kicks off Monday, March 6, yanking eight Houston Astros away from Spring Training Camp at West Palm Beach, FL.

Headed in various directions to participate will be half-a-dozen key players upon whom Houston will lean heavily to contend for an American League pennant in 2017.

Packing Their Bags

Second baseman (and reigning AL batting champ) Jose Altuve, will join Team Venezuela; designated hitter Carlos Beltran and SS Carlos Correa will play for their native Puerto Rico; Albuquerquean Alex Bregman will represent the U.S.

Also expected to play a major part, as a left-handed contact hitter on the Astros, is newly-acquired Nori Aoki, who will participate as a member of the Japanese contingent.

High-leverage righty, Luke Gregerson, will relieve for the U.S. team, while pitching prospects Kevin Chapman (Canadian lefty), and Dayan Diaz (Colombia) will also play. The right-handed Diaz was signed to a minor league contract on February 2, and invited to Spring Training.

Related: Astros’ Season At Risk? 5 Key Players in WBC

More WBC on TRS: Key Yankees Decide on WBC and Boston Red Sox Spring Storylines

The latest any of the eight Astros could return to the team’s new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches would be March 23.

March 20-22, L.A.’s Dodger Stadium hosts the WBC Championship Round, which consists of two semi-final games and the winner-takes-all Championship game.
Shop for authentic 2017 World Baseball Classic fan gear at MLBShop.com

Coordinating Communication

According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, Astros manager A.J. Hinch was under the impression Correa was going to play his customary shortstop, and perhaps some third base in the tourney, while Altuve would play his usual second base.

Beltran should serve as Puerto Rico’s DH, and would only play the outfield in an emergency. It’s likely Bregman would see time all over the infield, save for 1B. Clearly, the WBC team managers want to be in clear communication with each MLB team’s brain trust regarding how to use each player.

“Obviously, we’ll monitor it, but as an infielder, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal for us,” Hinch said, recently, of Correa playing some third. “He seems pretty comfortable at it. I think he’s taken a few ground balls at third base to have a different look.

“When he plays in the shift, on a pull right-handed hitter, he’s playing deep in the hole — which is as close as you can get to third base (for) a shortstop. I don’t have a lot of concern with the responsibility part of it.”

Phone calls and texting will help Hinch and his coaches keep track of each player and their respective progress through the tournament.

“They’re very reasonable, they know what they’re doing, they know where their bodies are at,” Hinch explained. “We communicate with them all the time. The position-player side of it, there are things in baseball that could happen in a Spring Training game, as well. I feel like they’re all physically where they need to be in order to move to the WBC.”

Who Benefits Back at Camp

According to McTaggart, “among those in camp who will see increased playing time are IF Colin Moran, IF/OF Tony Kemp, IF Reid Brignac and IF Tyler White, who could play some second base.”

Last spring, White was involved in a 4-player battle for Houston’s 1B spot, a position he eventually won, breaking camp.

Spring So Far

After putting up a 4-spot in the 9th inning in Sunday’s game with the Miami Marlins, the game ended in a 7-7 tie, bringing Houston’s record to 2-6-1.

Altuve takes off for the WBC with a spring .083 average on 1 hit in 12 ABs, with 3 stolen bases.

Beltran shoves off with a healthy .375, on 3-for-8 (two of his hits were homers). Bregman enters tourney play with a spring BA of .333, on 7-for-21 (with 2 doubles). He’s only struck out once, with no walks.

Correa leaves W. Palm Beach with a .154 BA, on his 2-for-13. He’s drawn walks five times, which encouragingly contributes to a .400 OBP.

Aoki left last week for Japan, but put up a small-sample .500 in his two spring games for the Astros.

Gregerson has pitched two innings, and given up just one hit, striking out three. Chapman has struggled early, yielding 3 ER, 3 hits, and 2 homers in his three innings.

Diaz has pitched but one inning for Houston this spring, and it was perfect.

Keep up with the schedule of games for the World Baseball Classic here. 

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Astros 2017 and the Power of Cuban Native Yulieski Gurriel

RHP David Paulino: Dominant Dominican Cyborg

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Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle