Gurriel among Astros stepping up amid injuries
First baseman filling in for Altuve at second; Correa participates in baserunning exercises
HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve is on the 10-day disabled list. So is Carlos Correa. How the Astros' infield will be configured for the next few days is something of a mystery.
The vague, potential return dates for Correa and Altuve are next week. Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said he expects Correa's return "in early August." Altuve is eligible to return on Aug. 5, which would be the Astros' World Series rematch series finale against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
"Right now, we're in the middle of the season. We normally have injuries during the season, where people miss time," Luhnow said Friday. "Correa's making progress. I do expect him to be back in early August. And Altuve's never out for really long even if he misses a game or two here. I'm not concerned about anything more long-term. If they miss a couple games here and there, it's going to happen."
The Astros started Yuli Gurriel at second base in Sunday afternoon's 4-3 loss to the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Gurriel -- typically a first baseman but vastly experienced, trusted and versatile as an infield defender -- said before the game that he hadn't had time to get any preparation reps at second base ahead his second career appearance at second and first this season. Gurriel made a fielding error in the sixth inning, allowing a key run to score.
"When you don't have a couple of your core players -- specifically up the middle, our second baseman and shortstop are on the DL -- that puts a lot of pressure on Marwin Gonzalez, who's having to fill in every single day," manager AJ Hinch said. "So if he gets a day off, it goes to the next layer of versatility for your team, and Yuli can do it."
Gonzalez is the obvious primary option at second base while Altuve is sidelined. Beyond him, the second-base depth chart will be comprised of Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Tony Kemp and Tyler White, whom the Astros recalled to assume Altuve's spot on the 25-man active roster. Gurriel could also see action at shortstop in coming days, along with Bregman and Gonzalez, Hinch said.
"It's a big absence for us," Gurriel said. "Everyone knows how important Correa and Altuve are to our lineup and our team. So I've got to do the best I possibly can."
The Astros are expecting to face two lefties (James Paxton and Wade LeBlanc) in their upcoming three-game series at the Mariners, which could provoke some different defensive looks as Houston deploys its right-handed-hitting unit against those lefties.
"To get White and [J.D.] Davis and Bregman and Marwin and Yuli and [Evan] Gattis all in the lineup, guys are going to have to play a few different positions," Hinch said.
Altuve and Correa will both travel on the team's upcoming eight-game road trip to Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. A day ago, hours before Altuve was placed on the DL, Hinch and Altuve noted that Altuve's knee felt better than it had in previous days.
Following consultation with team doctors Saturday, the Astros decided it would be best to give Altuve another seven days off before Aug. 5 amid his first career DL stint..
"I don't think it's any more serious than we thought," Hinch said. "Just after consultation, we can show up every day wondering if today was the day that we can run him. Our doctors just suggest to take another seven days off and see where that takes us. … As an industry, we're not perfect at these timeline things."
Correa did not hit Sunday since it was a scheduled day off for him, but he underwent a strenuous baserunning routine and fielded ground balls from Hinch. Correa will go through a normal pregame routine on Monday at Seattle. Correa is "close" to returning, Hinch said. The Astros are hopeful to plan out Correa's rehab assignment and get him to return to on-field action during the upcoming road trip.
"Very good," Hinch said of Sunday's workout. "He did a lot of baserunning, so I think he got a little winded, which shows if you take a little bit of time off. Especially with the back, he's got to get himself back into cardio shape to play a game. He did a little bit of everything today."