Mayfield making most of first big league camp

'Super Jack' soaking up infield knowledge from Altuve

March 3rd, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He's been a teammate of some of the biggest prospects in baseball as they've zoomed through the Minor Leagues and to the big leagues. He briefly played with in 2014 and in '15 in Class A before they were cornerstones on the Astros' World Series championship team.

As an undrafted player out of the University of Oklahoma, hasn't appeared on Top Prospects lists or been destined for stardom. At 27 years old -- about four years older than Bregman and Correa -- Mayfield is in his first Major League camp and soaking up everything he can.

"It's a great experience so far, and I'm very fortunate to get the invite," Mayfield said. "I was hoping for it all offseason and I knew it would be kind of tough, because I had the injury and I'm sure they were skeptical about it. I got the text and it was great from there. I know I had to start putting some good work in."

Mayfield, who shattered his left orbital socket when he was hit below the left eye with a pitch last August, has never been shy to work. He split last year between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, hitting .283 with 28 doubles, 20 homers, 67 RBIs and an .827 OPS in 112 games. Dubbed "Super Jack," he can play second base, shortstop and third.

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch rewarded him by starting him at shortstop Friday night against the Mets, and Mayfield responded by going 3-for-4, including a game-tying homer in the ninth.

"It's a nice reward for him to be in camp," Hinch said. "You never know, he might show up in the big leagues. A lot of people root for him because of the way he goes about it. He has been through a lot, specifically in the last year. When you can reward those guys with time in big league camp to start next to [Jose] Altuve, it's nice respect for him and also makes things interesting when he continues to produce."

Mayfield admitted he was a little nervous playing next to Altuve, the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, five-time All-Star and three-time batting champ who's barely four months older than Mayfield.

"It was awesome," Mayfield said. "I was excited for it, and being out there and throwing it around the horn with him is a great experience. I definitely think it's helping me slow the game down. When you get out there, it gets quick, especially at this level. All these big-name guys coming up and you've got to slow it down."

Altuve reminded Mayfield he likes aggressive flips at second base when turning double plays and said Altuve even pointed out to him that a Mets player had swung at a bad pitch with runners in scoring position, resulting in an out. The learning never stops.

"We're the same age and he's so smart at baseball being where he's at, the MVP," Mayfield said. "He's like, 'Hey right there, you've really got to focus on getting a good pitch to hit.' He just knows all the little things that some other players don't know. I'm very fortunate to be out there with those guys. I'm still learning a lot at age 27."