When Astros third baseman Alex Bregman suffered a left quad strain on Wednesday, manager Dusty Baker delivered a message to his team.
“We all have to pick up Bregman in his absence,” Baker stressed to his players. “Each guy has to do a little bit more.”
Abraham Toro was clearly paying attention.
Toro -- who was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land on Wednesday -- filled Bregman’s spot at the hot corner Thursday night, taking the opportunity and running with it as he posted a 2-for-4 day in his first Major League action since April 24. Toro’s two-run home run in the seventh inning capped a 10-2 victory over the White Sox (who owned the American League’s best record at 43-26 heading into Friday) and came three innings after his two-run single pushed the Astros’ lead to six.
“When you're in the Minors, obviously, that's the goal, to go to the big leagues,” Toro said following the win. “Whenever you get here and you help this team, this really good team, help them win, it's always a good feeling.”
Toro didn’t make the team’s Opening Day roster. Instead, he spent two weeks at the alternate training site before he was recalled for the first time this season on April 14. In just 12 at-bats, though, Toro struggled to get a single hit and posted a .237 OPS. The issues mirrored Toro’s 2019 and ‘20 seasons, when the now 24-year-old slashed .218/.303/.385 and .149/.237/.276, respectively, over 58 combined games.
Rather than keep Toro in a bench role, the Astros sent him down to the Minors to give him an opportunity to play every day with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
“I thought that maybe we might have rushed him some, because there was no Minor Leagues last year. This year, he got to go play,” Baker said Friday. “That's a very tough job for a young man that came right out of Double-A and spent very little time in the big leagues, very little time at Triple-A, to come up and spot-play and try to be a utility man.”
Once Toro recovered from a right oblique strain, the move to an everyday position paid off. Over 17 games with Sugar Land, Toro batted .352, posted a 1.078 OPS and had eight extra-base hits.
“For the progress and the betterment of the player, you’ve got to go back to playing,” Baker said. “He went back to playing, and he's gotten better.”
Now that he’s back with the big league club, Toro is doing his best to fill in while Bregman is on the shelf. He won’t be the only option Baker looks at, either. With backup infielder Aledmys Díaz on the IL, Baker wants to also use Robel García at third base and mentioned possible playing time at the spot for Taylor Jones. He said matchups may ultimately dictate who he writes into the lineup every game.
But with an opening at his position and with Houston continuing to hunt for first place in the AL West, Toro is looking to take advantage of his newfound opportunity.
“It was obviously sad [Wednesday], seeing Bregman go down, because we all know how impactful a player he is,” Toro said. “But at the same time, it's our job to keep winning games. If I can help the team win in any way, it's always huge for the team.”
“I've talked to [bench coach] Joe [Espada], who's our infield guy, and we have them kind of rated on who's the best of the third basemen. But would you rather have one guy maybe out of position, or would rather have two guys out of position? This has not been easy. I've thought out every scenario that you guys can imagine: this guy at third, this guy at first, this guy in left, this guy -- but you’ve got to put your best team out there by who's pitching against you and who is pitching for you in order to play defense”
-- Baker, on deciding who to play at third base.