Notes: Correa hits leadoff; Altuve focused

March 11th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday that shortstop and center fielder Myles Straw were the two leading candidates to be his leadoff hitter -- a spot departed free agent George Springer held for about the previous five seasons.

Correa led off Wednesday’s 4-4 tie with the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium and went 3-for-3 with a pair of infield hits and a two-run single, raising his Grapefruit League batting average to .333. Straw went 1-for-3 batting in the eighth hole Wednesday to drop his average to .438.

Correa has hit in the middle of the Astros lineup for much of his career, mostly third or fourth, but would bring the element of power at the top of the order that Springer had. Correa has never hit leadoff in his Major League career in the regular season, though. Straw, who’s the likely candidate to take over for Springer in center field, doesn’t have much power, but is one of the fastest players in baseball. If he gets on base consistently, he could be a weapon at the top of the order.

“We’ll see how it works out,” Baker said. “Is it going to be a George Springer-type or do we go with the speed type? That’s to be determined. I’m going to try both of them to see how the lineup works. Whenever George left, that’s a big hole to fill. We’ll see.”

Altuve gets extra at-bat Tuesday

About three weeks shy of the start of the regular season, Astros second baseman said his swing feels good, despite a lack of results in Grapefruit League play. Altuve went 0-for-4 Wednesday, striking out a pair of times, and is hitting .143.

That doesn’t matter too much for the three-time batting champion, who believes he’ll be ready to swing it for real on Opening Day and try to put a disappointing 2020 season in the rearview mirror. He stayed in the game to get an extra at-bat Wednesday, hitting a 99.4 mph flyout to right field.

“I’m trying to follow my gameplan, my approach,” he said. “No matter the results I have, in every single at-bat, I want to be confident and trust in the plan I have. I know it’s Spring Training, but the long season we’re going to play, it’s going to be good for me.”

Baker praised Altuve for the quality of his at-bats and how hard he’s been working in batting practice.

“We had to slow him down because he wants to do so well,” Baker said. “We’re not worried about Jose. He has a bounce in his step and he seems he’s back to being Jose.”

Altuve has been working with bench coach Joe Espada this spring to make some adjustments to his throwing after a few high-profile errors in the playoffs last year. Altuve didn’t make a throwing error in the regular season, but had four in the playoffs, including three in the American League Championship Series against the Rays. Altuve hasn’t had many opportunities this spring, but has looked sharp defensively.

“I feel pretty good and I think I can go out there and play a good season on both sides of the field, offensively and defensively,” he said.

Odds and ends

• Astros starter José Urquidy, who threw 45 pitches in 2 1/3 innings Wednesday, said he might throw more curveballs this year. Urquidy’s curveball was the least used of his four pitches last year (11.9 percent), and he threw 12 curves (27 percent) from among his 45 pitches against the Marlins.

• Right-hander Peter Solomon, the Astros’ No. 15 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, pitched in a game for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2019. Solomon threw a scoreless fifth and sixth, allowing one hit with three strikeouts.

• Baker said veteran catcher Jason Castro returned to the practice field today after dealing with a strained oblique for a few days.