Springer makes immediate impact in return
Outfielder back from wrist injury; won't hesitate on field
HOUSTON -- More than two months after he fractured his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch, Astros outfielder George Springer returned to the lineup for Friday's series opener against the Twins at Minute Maid Park, batting first and playing left field in manager A.J. Hinch's lineup.
Springer jump-started the Astros to an 8-0 victory, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a single to right field off Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey. Springer moved to third when Jose Altuve followed with a hit-and-run single, and scored the opening run of the game on Carlos Correa's grounder to shortstop. Springer finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
"It was great," Springer said after the game. "Obviously, I hadn't been out there in a while, but it was just exciting to contribute and just be playing."
Hinch said Springer would be in the lineup again Saturday before likely sitting out Sunday's series finale. The Astros open a three-game series at Oakland on Monday, followed by an off-day Thursday, which will give Springer another day to rest the wrist.
"I don't have any hesitation putting him back in the lineup, at the top," Hinch said. "The offense functioned very well with him at the top. There's no argument in wanting to get more base runners on base in front of Altuve and Correa. He's a dynamic player. I'd like to get his energy kick-started from the very beginning. He's had a few games to rehab. I know he'll come out with a ton of energy and our lineup looks the best with him at the top."
Springer, 25, said his wait to return to action has been "brutal."
"It's been long, but like I said it was just about supporting these guys and getting there every day and doing everything I can to help us," he said. "I'm happy to go out there again and start playing."
Springer batted .250 (4-for-16) in four games on a rehab assignment at Double-A Corpus Christi and returns to the Astros' lineup for the first time since July 1. He hit .321 with six homers and 12 RBIs and a .905 OPS in June and is hitting .264 with 13 homers and 29 RBIs this season.
"Just to get told I can go out there again and play is exciting," Springer said. "It's a big stretch for us, and I'm ready to do whatever I can to help."
Despite some significant injuries in his young career -- he missed the final 2 1/2 months last year with a quadriceps injury -- Springer said he's going to play the game full tilt.
"There will be no hesitations," he said. "If I have to hit the wall, I will. If I have to slide headfirst, I will. I'm not going to hesitate."
Hinch said he generally leave Carlos Gomez in center and start Springer in right, mixing and match Jake Marisnick, Preston Tucker and Colby Rasmus in left field.
"Now, if George has a day off like I'm planning on this weekend, you can see a different alignment," Hinch said.
The Astros also recalled right-hander Michael Feliz from Corpus Christi. Feliz, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 23 games (17 starts) combined for Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Lancaster. He has made one Major League appearance this season, pitching a scoreless inning for the Astros on May 31.
Hinch said Feliz would be used in long relief, freeing up Vincent Velasquez for a different role, perhaps even to start if Scott Feldman's shoulder issue doesn't clear up.
"[Feliz] was throwing the best of anybody in the Minor Leagues and a real power arm," Hinch said. "We've seen it before here in brief stints. He'll protect us in the bullpen more in a long role in relief."