Maldonado arrives to Astros camp lighter, pain free

February 16th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The early leader in the Astros’ clubhouse this spring for showing up and having shed the most weight is veteran catcher Martín Maldonado, who said prior to the team’s first workout on Thursday that he had lost 17 pounds since the end of the World Series.

Maldonado said he stayed away from soda and treats as he tried to get in better shape coming off a season in which he battled a hernia injury and a broken right hand. He wound up having surgery to repair his hernia shortly after the Astros beat the Phillies in the World Series (the hand healed on its own) and then, he proceeded to get in shape. Maybe not the best shape of his life, but certainly fitter and trimmer.

“I feel like the older you get, the skinner you’ve got to be,” the 36-year-old said. “I had surgery and wasn’t working out much. I tried to eat more healthy and stayed away from the Sprite and the Coke, and candy and all that stuff. It’s so hard, especially when you have two young kids. That’s the beauty of this game, you’re never satisfied.”

Maldonado, who is firmly as entrenched as one of the Astros' leaders after winning his first World Series title, not only played through a hernia injury, but also a broken bone in his right hand sustained when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 28. That didn’t stop him from catching 110 games in the regular season and all but two games in Houston’s playoff run.

“The team needs me and it’s a catcher’s mentality,” Maldonado said. “I’ve got to be out there for my team. We had a big chance and there was no quit. There was no surgery [during the season]. ... The good thing is they don’t need me to steal bases. I was slow, but I was even slower. [Manager] Dusty [Baker] understands that part. I explained it to him. We did some programs, some stuff to limit the pain, but the later in the game, the more pain I got. The good thing is we won.”

The Astros certainly don’t need Maldonado to run or even hit that much in their deep lineup. Still, he batted .254 in July and was finding his groove before the injuries caused him to tail off at the plate. He wound up hitting .186 with a career-high 15 homers -- one-third of which were hit in July.

“I feel like by the time I got hot in July, that’s when I got hurt,” he said. “I played pretty much the whole second half of the season through pain. I couldn’t run, I could barely throw, barely move. It’s good to be healthy, back to normal.”