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Notes: Altuve, Bregman see first game action

Abreu impresses in debut; Miggy stands behind friend Altuve
@brianmctaggart
February 24, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Astros trotted out their starting infield of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, José Altuve and Yuli Gurriel for the first time this spring in Monday’s 11-1 win over the Tigers in their first game action since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Astros trotted out their starting infield of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, José Altuve and Yuli Gurriel for the first time this spring in Monday’s 11-1 win over the Tigers in their first game action since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

Each got three plate appearances, with Bregman ripping a double on the first pitch he saw in the first inning and Altuve smacking an RBI double to left in the third.

Astros manager Dusty Baker kept most of his regular starters out of the lineup for the team’s first two Grapefruit League games over the weekend against the Nats, choosing to start his infielders Monday. Outfielders George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are expected to start Tuesday against the Marlins.

The Astros blasted four homers the win -- Garrett Stubbs, Myles Straw, Corey Julks (grand slam) and Jake Adams (three-run shot).

“Excited to get back on the field and play,” Bregman said. “It was good to get the first game out of the way, the first ABs, the first ground balls. Run the bases. Being in cleats for five innings -- [it] was nice to get out there.”

Altuve, who was hit on the foot by an errant pitch in the fifth inning, said getting back on the field was therapeutic.

“We were focused on playing baseball today,” Altuve said. “We know that we need to go on the field and get ready and prepare for the coming season, and that’s where we are thinking right now.”

Said Correa: “I felt really good to play baseball once again. It’s been a long time. It’s what we love to do. It always feels good when we step on the field.”

Abreu debuts
An electric debut outing of the spring for Bryan Abreu could be a signal that he will be hard to keep out of the bullpen when the season starts. The 22-year-old started Monday against the Tigers and retired all six batters he faced, including four by strikeout (all swinging). Abreu struck out 13 batters in 8 2/3 innings in his Major League debut last year, and he found his way onto the American League Championship Series roster. On Monday, he pounded the zone with 21 of his 30 pitches for strikes while pitching out of the stretch. He’s seen as a long shot to make the bullpen, but outings like this will make it hard to keep him off the roster in a month.

“He’s not being ignored,” Baker said. “He’s a guy that’s definitely on our radar. I didn’t know him before this. He was up last year. He throws the ball well. He had a good demeanor and good tempo. We like him.”

Abreu became the second-youngest pitcher to appear in a postseason game for Houston last year after striking out 126 batters in 91 1/3 innings combined between Class A Advanced Fayetteville and Double-A Corpus Christi. While his fastball sat between 94-96 mph on Monday, all four of his strikeouts came on sliders. That included Miguel Cabrera in the first inning.

“I felt a lot of emotion,” Abreu said. “I’ve seen Cabrera since I was a young kid. He’s hitting homers, all this stuff, and now I’m facing him and doing my best. I struck him out. He’s a great hitter, man, and that made me feel like I’m doing it the right way.”

Miggy stands behind Altuve
Several high-profile players, including reigning Most Valuable Player Award winners Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Mike Trout of the Angels, have spoken out against Houston in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. Another former MVP came to the defense of one of the Astros on Monday.

Cabrera, who is close friends with Altuve, told The Detroit News that he believes Altuve when he told him he didn’t participate in the sign-stealing scandal that MLB determined the team used in 2017 and into ’18. Altuve hasn’t discussed many specifics about the scandal, but Correa said last week that Altuve didn’t like the banging of the trash can that the team used to signal to the hitters which pitches were coming.

Cabrera said Altuve has told him repeatedly he didn’t participate.

“We knew [the Astros' sign-stealing methods] from a long time ago,” Cabrera told the paper Monday. “Two years ago, we knew. So when I asked him again this offseason, it was same conversation we had two years ago.”

Altuve said Monday that Cabrera is like a “second dad” to him.

“He has helped me my whole career,” Altuve said. “When we talk, I feel like it’s between us. We talk almost every day, and if I tell you everything we talk about, we might spend all night here.”

Up next
Reddick, Brantley and Springer are expected to make their 2020 Grapefruit League debut when the Astros face the Marlins at 12:05 CT on Tuesday at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Right-handed prospect Brandon Bielak will start his first Grapefruit League game of the year for the Astros, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.