Brantley 'excited' by progress in recovery

January 31st, 2023

PALM CITY, Fla. -- Astros outfielder remains hopeful he’ll be ready to be in the Opening Day lineup following shoulder surgery performed in August. Brantley said Monday he will clear another hurdle next week when he begins taking batting practice, a major step with Spring Training less than three weeks away.

“I’m doing great,” Brantley said. “Just following the process, following the schedule we have planned out. All is going well. I’m excited where I’m at. I’ve been hitting, running and throwing and I’m very excited where I’m at in the process.”

Brantley, who underwent an arthroscopic labral repair on his right shoulder around mid-August, joined teammates , and at Reggie Jackson’s Mr. October Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic at the Floridian National Golf Club, though Brantley didn’t play. He’s yet to be cleared by doctors to swing a club.

Brantley said he might be limited when camp starts in West Palm Beach on Feb. 15, when pitchers and catchers report, but he should be able to participate in most workouts.

“That’s what I’m working hard towards, to be out there with my teammates and the guys who are working really hard, as well,” he said. “I look forward to getting to Spring Training in a few weeks.”

Despite questions about his health, the Astros re-signed Brantley to a one-year deal in December. Last year, he hit .288 with 14 doubles, five homers, 26 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 64 games as Houston's primary starting left fielder. He said coming back to the Astros was always his first preference.

“Absolutely. I love this team,” he said. “I’m very appreciative for [owner Jim] Crane to have the opportunity to be here. My family has been embraced by Houston fans and this organization to the fullest. I can’t thank them enough. To be around this great group of guys who worked so hard, it’s like a family to me. This is where I want to be.”

Arb case not a worry for Tucker
Tucker said Monday he’s not concerned about the outcome of his arbitration difference with the Astros. Last month, Tucker filed for a $7.5 million salary for this season, with the Astros offering him $5 million. If they can’t agree to a contract, his salary will be determined by an arbitration panel in February.

“My focus is just preparing for the season, letting the other stuff play out,” he said. “I’m getting into the baseball routine. We’ve got Spring Training coming up pretty soon and I’m trying to get ready for that. … I’ve got three years of [arbitration control] anyways, so we’ll just see how it plays out.”

Tucker and All-Star pitcher are both candidates for long-term extensions, which could become a priority for new general manager Dana Brown. Brown helped acquire and lock up many of the Braves' up-and-coming young players, including Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider.

More recognition for Peña
Peña continues to ride the momentum of his historic rookie postseason, in which he was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series and the World Series. Last week, Peña took home the 2022 Babe Ruth Award for being the Postseason MVP by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He picked up the award in a gala dinner in New York on Saturday.

“It was a great time,” Peña said. “Shout out to the baseball writers for the invite and for the award. We had a great time with a great group of guys. Got to hang out with [2022 AL Rookie of the Year] Julio [Rodríguez] a little bit and some of the other guys."

Meanwhile, Peña is the inaugural winner of the “Mr. October Award,” which was given to him by Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, who’s become a mentor to Peña. In fact, Peña joked Monday that he calls Jackson “mi tío,” which is Spanish for “my uncle.”

“The day he played 18 innings and hit the home run [to win Game 3 of the 2022 AL Division Series at Seattle] and we won that series, and then he was the MVP in the ALCS against the Yankees and winning the World Series, he was the MVP again,” Jackson said. “He hit .400 and got 10 hits and hit a big home run again [in the World Series]. He was the guy.”