PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- George Springer's five plate appearances during the Astros’ night game on Tuesday, a 5-3 loss to the Nationals, drew some questions the next day, mainly because it seemed a little odd that a veteran player would put in such a long night this late into
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- George Springer's five plate appearances during the Astros’ night game on Tuesday, a 5-3 loss to the Nationals, drew some questions the next day, mainly because it seemed a little odd that a veteran player would put in such a long night this late into Spring Training.
That's not to say baseball players don't want to play baseball. They do. But at night? In March? Well, let's save that for the regular season, when most of the Spring Training routines, including early-morning wakeup calls and 9 a.m. team meetings, go away.
Which brings us to Springer -- leadoff hitter extraordinaire, World Series hero, the glue that keeps this Astros lineup humming.
So why in the heck did he have FIVE plate appearances during this particular game?
Because he wanted the night off, of course.
Manager A.J. Hinch made a deal with his star outfielder. You want to go home? Get a hit. "I'll put Myles Straw in to pinch-run for you," Hinch said he promised Springer.
"What if I get a hit in the first at-bat?" Springer asked.
"Then you'll be out of the game," Hinch responded.
"Night's almost over, boys!" Springer bellowed to his teammates in the dugout.
First at-bat: strikeout.
Second at-bat: flyout to right.
Still, no deal.
"I had Straw sitting there with his helmet on, ready to pinch-run," Hinch said. "All [Springer] had to do was get a hit."
Springer walked his third time up, grounded out to short his fourth time and, mercifully, in the eighth inning, walked again.
At that point, Hinch figured Springer had had enough, and Straw, who spent the entire game sitting in the dugout wearing a batting helmet as the on-call pinch-runner, finally replaced Springer.
"I figured three at-bats and two walks deserved the mercy rule," Hinch said.
To the casual observer, Springer's extra at-bats could have been interpreted a few ways. Maybe he wanted some extra time to, as the well-worn Spring Training phrase goes, "work on things."
Or, with a .160 spring average, maybe he just needed some more reps?
Sometimes, as a manager, you have to keep things spicy this time of year. We don't want to suggest players occasionally get bored but, well...players occasionally get bored.
It's fair to assume that of all the emotions that may have been running through Springer this night, boredom was not one of them.
"Spring Training shenanigans," Hinch said.
Cole vs. Mets
Robinson Cano's two-run homer in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 2-1 Astros loss to the Mets were the first runs Gerrit Cole has allowed all spring. Overall, the right-hander was pleased with his 4 2/3 innings in Port St. Lucie.
Cole was still throwing in the upper 90s toward the end of his 70-pitch outing, and with two starts remaining until he makes his regular-season debut, he's happy with how his spring preparation is progressing.
"I was challenging the guys and I got the slider where I wanted to a few times, I got the changeup where I wanted to," Cole said. "I threw some breaking balls behind in the count. All in all, it was pretty good."
Cole walked one and struck out four and has a 1.69 ERA over four spring starts.
"He pitches in Spring Training with similar-to-exact intensity you ask out of him in a regular-season game," Hinch said. "His preparation, his action in the dugout, his intensity on the mound. That's why he's elite."
Perez's strong outing
Left-hander Cionel Perez, making his Grapefruit League debut, needed 11 pitches to retire the middle of the Mets' order, recording two flyouts and one groundout.
Perez, a candidate to win the final spot in the Astros' bullpen, retired Cano, Wilson Ramos and Michael Conforto in order during his lone inning of work.
The Astros will host the Marlins Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Right-hander Collin McHugh will start for the Astros, while the Marlins will counter with veteran righty Dan Straily.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.