Bregman will make spring debut Tuesday

March 15th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Two days after designated hitter Yordan Alvarez made his Grapefruit League debut for the Astros, third baseman Alex Bregman is set to get into a Spring Training game for the first time this year on Tuesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Bregman missed the first 13 games of Houston’s spring schedule with a sore left hamstring. His availability for Opening Day never appeared to be in doubt, however, with the Astros and Bregman insisting they were being extremely cautious. Bregman said he injured his hamstring in early January while running sprints and has been rehabbing it since.

Alvarez, who had both of his knees operated on in August, went 0-for-3 at designated hitter on Sunday against the Cardinals in his spring debut. He’ll make his second start of the season Tuesday, manager Dusty Baker said.

“That will be the first time I've had most of my big boys in the lineup,” Baker said.

Also, catcher Jason Castro, who has been limited to four at-bats this spring because of an oblique injury, will be in the lineup again Tuesday.

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 his 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.

Bregman said last month that he put on 27 pounds to help him hold his position better throughout his swing. After a terrific 2019 season in which he finished a close second to Mike Trout in the American League Most Valuable Player Award race, Bregman struggled through much of last season -- not unlike several other star players around the Major Leagues during the shortened campaign -- hitting .242/.350/.451 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 42 games.

Leaner, stronger Urquidy
The 15 pounds Astros pitcher said he dropped in the offseason paid dividends for him during his start in Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Marlins at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Urquidy said he didn’t feel quite as tired as he did during his first two Grapefruit League starts.

Urquidy, facing the Marlins for the third consecutive time, allowed three hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings, throwing 61 pitches (42 for strikes). The two runs came on a two-out fly ball off the bat of Jorge Alfaro that right fielder Kyle Tucker lost in the sun in the second inning.

In three Grapefruit League starts, Urquidy has worked eight innings and allowed eight hits, six earned runs and one walk with six strikeouts.

“My whole body feels stronger,” Urquidy said. “I’m working on getting my arm strength built up, but the rest of my body feels stronger.”

Urquidy said earlier this spring that his goal was to throw 200 innings this year, which would be a huge leap from the 29 2/3 innings he threw in a shortened 2020. His career high in pro ball is 158 innings, which came between the Majors and Minors in 2019. That included five scoreless innings in a Game 4 start in the World Series in Washington.

“He looked very good,” Baker said. “He was sharp with his breaking stuff. His fastball is always on target. This guy, he can pitch, and we enjoy watching him pitch.”

McCormick to get more playing time
Baker said he plans to play rookie outfielder more in the coming days to give him a better chance to get regular reps. McCormick is competing for the fourth outfielder spot to start the season, along with non-roster invitees Steven Souza Jr. and Jose Siri.

McCormick started in left field Monday and went 1-for-2 with a fifth-inning single off reliever Anthony Bass. He hit into a double play against Sixto Sánchez in the first inning and drew a walk in the third. Prior to Monday’s game, Baker said McCormick hadn’t been swinging the bat as well as he has seen in the past (he’s 2-for-14 this spring).

“I’m going to try to give him more playing time here down the stretch to make a determination and talk to him about not feeling pressure to make the club,” Baker said. “Just play and it will take care of itself, you know what I mean? ... He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, which is natural, but it doesn’t help you.”

McCormick was on Houston’s playoff rosters for both the American League Wild Card and Division Series in October as a pinch-running option, but he didn’t get into a game. He can play anywhere in the outfield but has spent most of his time in the Minors in right field (131 games). He has played 85 games in left and just 54 in center.

A 21st-round Draft pick in 2017, McCormick appeared in 110 games in 2019 between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock, hitting .269 with six doubles, six triples, 14 homers, 66 RBIs and 16 steals. He played seven games in the Dominican Republic this winter and had his season cut short when he suffered a Grade 2 quad strain. Those are the only games McCormick has played since ’19.

Worth noting
• Baker said right-hander Brandon Bielak, who allowed two runs and four hits in two innings, has an outside shot at making the club. “He’s had a good spring outside that first outing that he had,” he said. “We like Bielak. It’s a matter of when he’s going to get here. He’s worked hard at putting himself in position to be here.”