WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros outfielder George Springer was recruited by both the United States and Puerto Rico -- where his mother was born -- to play in the World Baseball Classic. Even though those two countries are meeting in the tournament's championship game Wednesday night, Springer has no regrets about staying with the Astros.
"I understand my first priority is obviously the Houston Astros," he said. "I don't know, I just decided to not play. There wasn't anything specific. It just felt like staying here was my best opportunity to get prepared for the season and I stayed."
Springer, who clubbed his first homer of the spring in Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Twins, has kept in touch with infielder Alex Bregman, who's played sparingly for the Americans, while he's been at the World Baseball Classic. Bregman and relief pitcher Luke Gregerson are playing for the U.S. and outfielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Carlos Correa are playing for Puerto Rico.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said that with Beltran, Bregman and Correa returning from the Classic, he'll have his full lineup on display for the first time Saturday. Springer, who will hit leadoff, said he can't wait to get the boys all together.
"Obviously, getting a shot to play with all the guys again and being on the field at the same time will be great because we're starting to close down the spring and head into the season," Springer said.
One thing Springer wanted to focus on by staying in camp was getting reacquainted with center field, a position he played in college and through the Minor Leagues before he made the transition to right field to accommodate William Fowler in 2014. Springer moved back to center this year following the departure of Carlos Gomez and the signing of right fielder Josh Reddick.
"We play a much different style of outfield," Springer said. "We're not ever in the same position twice, we're not ever straight up a lot. We're just getting the hang of kind of being in multiple places, whether it's the same at-bat or same inning. It's fun for me. Obviously, I've got Jake [Marisnick] and Josh to my left or right, and it's been fun so far."
Springer likes to play shallower than most outfielders, and he's got the athleticism to go back on balls and run them down. When he's alongside Marisnick and former American League Gold Glove winner Reddick -- perhaps the Astros' best defensive configuration -- it's an elite defensive outfield. Newcomer Carlos Beltran will get some time in left as well.
"I think it's going to be the best we've had in the last few years, in my opinion," Springer said. "Between the experience of Reddick and Beltran and then just the flat-out speed of Jake is something cool for us, and you stick myself out there, who's not afraid to get hit by a wall or anything like that. It's going to be fun."