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Hinch declares Springer 'a star,' trusts in Altuve

@brianmctaggart
May 11, 2019

HOUSTON -- Has Astros outfielder George Springer finally put it all together? Springer already has a solid big league resume that includes two All-Star appearances and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award, but the first 38 games of this season have seen him produce the most consistent stretch of

HOUSTON -- Has Astros outfielder George Springer finally put it all together? Springer already has a solid big league resume that includes two All-Star appearances and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award, but the first 38 games of this season have seen him produce the most consistent stretch of his career.

Springer entered Friday hitting .301 with 13 homers, which is tied for the AL lead, along with a team-high 33 RBIs while hitting in the leadoff spot. He leads the AL in total bases (91) and ranks third in runs scored (29) and RBIs. It’s early, but he’s certainly a player to keep an eye on in the AL MVP race.

“I think the name of the game is consistency,” Springer said. “Through the help of Mike [Brantley] and some other guys, I’ve tried to develop a consistent plan every day and prepare the same way and kind of understand what happens when my swings goes wrong. Honestly, I’m just trying to be consistent and not do too much.”

Hinch noted how Springer is spraying the ball all over the field. He still has pull homer power, but he’s hit a couple to right-center field, as well, and is hitting a variety of pitches. Hinch noted how strong Springer's pitch selection has been:

“When he’s walking and driving the ball to all fields, he’s a star,” he said. “He’s dangerous from the first pitch, which we know, and it's why he’s in the leadoff spot. It’s fun to watch. As much as it can be a different guy every night that delivers a key hit or gets the big at-bat, or hits the big home run, our offense is generated from the top. When his energy’s at a high level and his production is at a high level, our offense is really good.”

Altuve coming around?

With six-time All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, Astros manager AJ Hinch said Friday that the club remains confident the former American League Most Valuable Player is close to turning things around.

Altuve, who’s won three batting titles, entered Friday hitting .238 this season, having seen his average plummet during a 14-for-83 (.169) stretch in his 23 games prior to Friday. Altuve has just six extra-base hits in that span with a .289 on-base percentage. He has a .227 batting average on balls in play this year, which would by far set a new career low.

“He’s going to be fine,” Hinch said. “It feels worse than it really is because we’re not used to him hovering where he’s hovering, but that means a lot of hits are coming. He’s going to be fine.”

Altuve collected a hit in his lone at-bat during Friday's 3-0 win vs. the Rangers, legging out an infield single in the first inning before departing the game early. Altuve has been ruled day to day due to left hamstring discomfort.

When he hit six homers in a five-game span in April, Altuve said he was a little worried that he was hitting so many balls in the air. He’s certainly got home run pop, but he’s at his best when he’s spraying line drives to all parts of the field. He’s hitting more fly balls this year, but has posted his second-best average exit velocity (87.4 mph) and his best hard-hit percentage (39.8).

“I’ve seen him make adjustments, but in some ways, you can do too many adjustments and try too many different things and not stick with one thing,” Hinch said. “He’s trying to open his stance a little bit, he’s trying to get a better look at the pitches. It’s important for him to not close himself off, which makes him very rotational. All technical stuff, but what really will make him feel better are a bunch of hits.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.