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Hinch ready to look ahead, focus on repeat

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If there is such a thing as a World Series hangover, Astros manager A.J. Hinch isn't quite ready to reach for the aspirin.

It's been nearly seven weeks since the Astros polished off the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series to win their first championship, and Hinch is starting to get asked more questions about his team in 2018 than he is being asked to reflect on 2017.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If there is such a thing as a World Series hangover, Astros manager A.J. Hinch isn't quite ready to reach for the aspirin.

It's been nearly seven weeks since the Astros polished off the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series to win their first championship, and Hinch is starting to get asked more questions about his team in 2018 than he is being asked to reflect on 2017.

Hinch, of course, is happy to answer both, but knows at some point the team will have to put 2017 on the back burner.

"We're still smiling and still celebrating, but I'm going to be the guy that has to tell these guys to flip the script and get on to 2018," he said. "We'll do that. Our guys are starting to work out. I've met with a number of our local guys in Houston, and I've been in contact with some guys via text and calls, and we won't be any less hungry or any less motivated to try to do it again. I think our guys enjoyed the run and want to do it again."

Hinch, who has led the Astros to the postseason twice in his three years as manager in Houston, met with reporters Tuesday at the Winter Meetings and answered an array of questions, ranging from Giancarlo Stanton's impact on the American League to -- of course -- repeating as champions.

Astros remain confident in Giles as closer

The Astros will return all of their core players next year and are hoping to add a relief pitcher or two by the time they report to Spring Training in two months. So when it comes to repeating, Hinch said health will be the key.

Video: Tyler White on the Astros' chances of repeating

"Obviously, performance is huge and you've got to play really well for a long period of time to win games, but being healthy at the right time [is key]," Hinch said. "We absorbed injuries. The way we did it, it wasn't more than one guy at a time. It was [Dallas] Keuchel, [Lance] McCullers [Jr.], [Carlos] Correa, [George] Springer, [Brian] McCann, [Josh] Reddick -- all guys spent time on the DL. But we were able to avoid kind of the catastrophic two- or three-week stretch where two or three or four of them were on the DL at the same time."

Keuchel and McCullers, who are in the 2018 rotation with Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh, have both had injuries in each of the last two years, which has a silver lining. McCullers has thrown only 220 1/3 innings combined in the last two years, and Keuchel has thrown 341 1/3 innings over the last two years after amassing 246 in his 2015 Cy Young Award season.

"Dallas and Lance were the biggest question going into last season because they were injured to end the previous season," Hinch said. "This year they were healthy finishing the season. So I'm not as concerned, but I want our best guys to be healthy and they're two of our best."

With two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani joining the division (he signed with the Angels) and 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Stanton now in the American League (he was traded to the Yankees), Hinch knows the competition will stiffen in the Astros' bid to repeat.

Video: Hinch sees division needing to adjust to Ohtani

"I think that our league and our division has been very strong," he said. "We have had the best player in baseball in our division. You can argue who that is, but we have had some pretty good ones on our team, and I think our guys are up for the challenge."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros