Long journey brings Singleton back to where he started

August 9th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

was supposed to be a central part of the Astros’ success of the past eight years -- the golden era of Astros baseball. The club’s former top prospect, Singleton was signed to a five-year, $10-million contract just as the Astros called him up to the big leagues on June 3, 2014.

The slugger was put into the lineup alongside Jose Altuve, George Springer, Jason Castro and the rest of the Astros’ up-and-coming core players, where he was expected to stay for a long time. It didn’t happen.

Singleton struggled with the Astros and was slapped with multiple suspensions for marijuana use until, in 2018, following a third failed test, Houston released him. Singleton was out of organized baseball before he opened a gym in 2020 and lost weight.

“There were things in my life I needed to straighten out before baseball became a thought,” said Singleton, who spent time in therapy. “Just tried to become a better husband, a better man and a better father.”

Singleton had a promising stint in the Mexican League in 2021, signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers in ‘22 and endured a roller-coaster start to ‘23 during which he was on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster, then released when the club needed to free a spot, then re-signed to continue a quest to get back to the big leagues.

Singleton returned to the big leagues this year and went 3-for-29 in 11 games with the Brewers -- his first action in the big leagues since 2015 -- and was eventually designated for assignment and signed to a Minor League deal with Houston. Talk about coming full circle.

“He’s getting a second chance where he started,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Most people don’t get that. Everybody deserves another chance. We talk about forgiveness and this and that, but we don’t really practice what we preach. I am hoping he can give us that left-handed bat off the bench, and spot-play, and contribute for what we need. We’ve needed a left-handed bat for some time now, so hopefully he gives us a big jolt.”

Singleton rejoined the Astros on Tuesday in Baltimore and drew a pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning ahead of Kyle Tucker’s game-winning grand slam. The Astros are hoping Singleton can provide some left-handed power of his own. He slashed .333/.446/.692 in 33 games with Triple-A Sugar Land with 12 homers and 28 RBIs.

“It’s definitely great to be able to be on the team I originally broke into the big leagues with,” Singleton said. “A lot of changes with the faces and the coaching staff. Great to be in Major League Baseball again.”

Astros general manager Dana Brown said the coaching staff at Sugar Land told him Singleton was a model citizen with the Space Cowboys and showed some leadership.

“We did a nice little vetting process and he came back pretty clean and focused,” he said. “We believe that you’ve got to give a guy a second chance and give him a chance to see what he can do.”

On Monday, the Astros optioned outfielder Corey Julks to Triple-A to make room for Singleton. Julks, who was in an 0-for-36 slump, made the Opening Day roster and had made a team-high 57 starts in left field.

“He went down to get his timing back and if he gets hot, we can always call him back up in 10 days and option someone else out,” Brown said. “At one point in the season, he was really rolling. … I told him, ‘You did it the old-fashioned way. You came to camp, you played your butt off, you made the team, you got hot at one point during the season and were up to a .750 OPS and you cooled off a little too much. We want you to go back and get your timing back.’”