WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- With so many of their regular players away for the World Baseball Classic, the Astros have pulled more players than usual from the Minors this spring.Last year, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez took advantage of those opportunities to perform in games before the Major League coaching staff,
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- With so many of their regular players away for the World Baseball Classic, the Astros have pulled more players than usual from the Minors this spring.
Last year, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez took advantage of those opportunities to perform in games before the Major League coaching staff, and he was called up to the big leagues in August.
Hernandez, a right-handed bat, hit .230 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 41 games for the Astros last year, blasting a homer off Francisco Liriano in his Major League debut in Toronto.
He's a longshot to supplant Jake Marisnick as a backup outfielder on Opening Day, but Hernandez worked in the offseason to put himself in better positon to compete.
"My first game was pretty awesome and then I had a little struggle and a couple of bad games," he said. "I learned how they pitched, how the games go, and then I did some drills and made some adjustments. I talked a lot to Jose Altuve and those guys who have more experience and they told me how to do it, how to control [the strike zone]. That's what I do and it helped me at the end of the season."
Hernandez, 24, was a rising prospect following the 2014 season at Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, but he hit just .219 at Corpus Christi with 17 homers and 48 RBIs in 2015 -- one of the reasons he was not at big league camp last year.
"He was very highly thought of early in his Minor League career, then he fell off performance-wise, and had to work his way back on the map," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's a really good outfielder, a good bat. He has really refined his hitting approach and become more selective."
The often-smiling Hernandez brings a positive energy to the field and clubhouse. He speaks English confidently, after starting to learn the language in 2012 with Astros supervisor of language development, Doris Gonzalez. That's helped him fit in the clubhouse.
"His personality is great," Hinch said. "He's very comfortable having made it to the big leagues last year and having played a little bit. He's much more comfortable than he would have been."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.