HOUSTON -- The Astros will travel to Kansas City next week to play exhibition games against the Royals at 7:05 p.m. CT on Monday and 1:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. The Astros open the regular season July 24 against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park.
"There are a lot of different teams we talked to about possibly playing exhibition games and we’re thrilled we were able to line up with the Royals," Astros general manager James Click said. "I know for our guys, getting those live at-bats against new pitchers and continuing to see new players, it’s hard to say how valuable it is. Our hitters in practice have been clamoring for it and we’re certainly really excited to be able to line that up."
The exhibition games will mark the Astros’ first time traveling since the coronavirus epidemic shut down Spring Training on March 12. The club has been working out at Minute Maid Park and the University of Houston since July 3, though delays in COVID-19 testing forced a pair of workouts to be cancelled in the last week. The Astros pushed back Monday’s session to the late afternoon while awaiting test results.
The season opener against Seattle will be the first game of a six-game homestand for the Astros, during which they will host the Mariners and the Dodgers. Each club will play 60 regular-season games as part of the revised MLB schedule. All 60 of Houston's games will be against teams in the American League West or National League West to limit travel.
Urquidy, Alvarez placed on the IL
The Astros placed right-hander José Urquidy and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez on the 10-day injured list for undisclosed reasons, according to the league’s transaction wire. Urquidy and Alvarez are among three known players who haven’t reported to camp, joining veteran reliever Joe Smith.
Click wasn't sure if they’d be ready for Opening Day on July 24.
"We're hoping but obviously it's difficult to say," he said.
Major League Baseball has instituted a COVID-19 list this season, although clubs will not announce which players are placed on it due to privacy laws regarding individuals' health. Players may address their status if they wish, though they are not required to do so. Merely being placed on an injured list without further explanation is not confirmation that a player has tested positive for COVID-19. For example, potential exposure to a person who has the virus can be sufficient cause.
As for Smith, Click said he remains away because of medical concerns from his family. Click was asked if Smith could elect not to play this season because of that.
"That's a conversation we're going to have with Joe and we're focused on what's best for him and his family," he said.
Bregman working on swing
With Opening Day quickly approaching, All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman admitted that his swing is not where he needs to be. That’s despite Bregman homering to left field in his final at-bat during Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Minute Maid Park.
“No, I've got a lot of work to do,” Bregman said. “I’ve got to clean up a lot of things mechanically and just see more pitching. Today was a step in the right direction. I got four at-bats and am getting back into the groove of things. I’m going to continue to work hard and continue [to work on] those mechanical issues we have going on right now.”
George Springer and Nick Tanielu also homered for the Astros, while Carlos Correa went 3-for-3 with two sharp singles up the middle. Astros manager Dusty Baker said Bregman talked him into taking one more at-bat, which resulted in the homer.
“This guy, he loves to play,” Baker said.
Bregman, who finished a close second to Mike Trout in the American League MVP Award race last season, said there will enough time left in camp to be ready for the July 24 regular-season opener against the Mariners.
“Big league pitching is the best in the world,” Bregman said. “I think the biggest thing is to work hard as a group and get as many at-bats as possible and see as many pitches as possible. We feel comfortable getting in there [for] Game One.”
Bregman loves to play so much that he said he could barely sleep Sunday in anticipation of the intrasquad games.
“I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow and play again,” he said.