'Patient' Bregman (hamstring) close to return
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is inching closer to seeing action in a Grapefruit League game with his sore left hamstring on the mend. Bregman has been going through full workouts with his teammates, and he said on Sunday that he did the most running he’s done this spring. Bregman estimated that the hamstring is 90 percent healed.
“I want to be playing nine innings right now every single day,” Bregman said. “There's no way around it. I want to be playing every single day. Trust me. I do. I'm just listening to the advice that I've been given. Sucks to hear it sometimes, but I need to be patient with things and make sure that everything is 100 percent so that way I can play 162 plus a good postseason run.”
Bregman said he injured his hamstring in early January while running sprints, and he has been rehabbing it since. The Astros are taking it extremely slow with Bregman, who maintains he’ll be ready for Opening Day. He’s been a full participant in the team’s morning workouts in West Palm Beach, which means he’s been fielding grounders and getting swings against pitchers in live bullpen sessions.
“We have a lot of time, but I’ve also gotten a lot of live ABs off really good arms,” Bregman said. “Yesterday, my swing felt the best it’s felt in probably a year, so I'm looking forward to trying to continue to keep it feeling that good.”
Bregman strained his right hamstring last August while running the bases in Colorado. In September 2016 -- at the end of his rookie year -- he missed two weeks after straining the same hamstring running the bases. To avoid further hamstring injuries, Bregman said he needs be adamant about his training in the weight room and physical therapy.
“I mean, I've been working extremely hard on this, and trying to clean up running form, trying to clean up, whether it's posture or working on my hips and stuff like that,” Bregman said. “I’m just doing all the necessary things to make sure that I try and keep them as healthy and strong as possible.”
Pressly strikes out the side
The first Grapefruit League outing of the year for veteran reliever Ryan Pressly couldn’t have gone much better. Pressly needed 14 pitches to strike out the side in the third inning of Sunday’s 8-5 loss to the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. Pressly threw 10 pitches for strikes.
“I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and be able to throw my breaking ball for a strike,” Pressly said. “I just wanted my body to feel good. I didn’t necessarily care about results today.”
Pressly, an All-Star setup man in 2019, converted 11 of his final 13 save chances in '20, with a 2.08 ERA and four walks and 25 innings in that span. He took over the closer’s role after Roberto Osuna went down with an injury last year, and he remains the likeliest choice to be the team’s closer this year. Pressly has battled injuries the past two seasons, but he appears to have put his health problems behind him.
“Obviously, there’s still things I’m working on,” Pressly said. “The results were good today, but we’ve got to build on that and try to keep getting better every single day. For the most part, I was happy with how my body felt and how everything was coming out of my hands. I think we’re in a really good spot.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker said Pressly looked like he was in “midseason form.”
“His fastball was in the mid-90s and his breaking ball was sharp,” Baker said. “He looked good. He’s in a good frame of mind. It was real impressive. He threw the ball where he wanted to.”
Emanuel nearing suspension end
At age 28, left-handed pitcher Kent Emanuel doesn’t show up on prospect lists anymore. Emanuel has been in the Astros' organization since they drafted him in the third round out of the University of North Carolina in 2013, and he has plodded through the system, spending 2 1/2 seasons at Double-A and 2 1/2 at Triple-A.
Emanuel looked sharp while throwing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts while getting the start on Sunday, but he won’t be breaking camp with the Major League club. He has 18 games remaining on an 80-game suspension that was handed down in August after he tested positive for the banned substance Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. Emanuel maintains he never knowingly took the substance and was placed on the restricted list while the Astros had 10 pitchers come up and make their Major League debuts last year.
“Little bit of a salt-in-the-wound scenario for me,” Emanuel said. “I played with a lot those guys who debuted, and I know the ones I had played with were working really hard, so it’s not like there was any anger towards them or anything. It was disappointing, the situation.”
Emanuel played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, appearing in seven games for Licey, and he said he’s healthy after getting both a platelet-rich plasma injection and bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) injection into his elbow in April. He could be an interesting piece for the Astros later in the season.
“I think he’s going to help us at some time during the season,” Baker said. “We don’t know exactly where, but he can pitch. First time I’ve seen him really pitch and they told me he can pitch. ... He mixes his speed well and he has good command. He has life on his ball and it sinks. And he can throw one upstairs and has a pretty good breaking ball. I was impressed with him. He got some pretty good hitters out.”