PHOENIX -- Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel won nearly every baseball award a player in Cuba's Serie Nacional could win. He was an international star there and is a star-in-the-making here.But for all of Gurriel's experience at home and abroad, the veteran still can't figure out what time Carlos Correa
PHOENIX -- Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel won nearly every baseball award a player in Cuba's Serie Nacional could win. He was an international star there and is a star-in-the-making here.
But for all of Gurriel's experience at home and abroad, the veteran still can't figure out what time Carlos Correa wants to play video games -- specifically soccer -- each day.
"Back in Cuba, we used to only play in the afternoon right before our games, maybe six o'clock," Gurriel said with a smile before Tuesday's 9-4 win over the D-backs. "Now we have to play in the mornings, the night or whenever we can before our games. Carlos is ready all of the time. He knows the schedule."
Gurriel is in his first full season with Houston, and the 33-year-old is quickly learning that big league baseball is not all fun and games. The 162-game schedule is no joke.
"In Cuba, you played 90 games all season. You play for three days and rest for one. Here, you can have 12 games in a row. That's different," Gurriel said in Spanish. "You have to really prepare in the offseason for the long season. The pitchers are the best in the world. There's a lot of movement on their pitches, and it's not like you are getting fastball after fastball. That's different, too."
One thing that has not changed is Gurriel's ability to hit the ball hard. According to Statcast™, his overall exit velocity is 89.4 mph, ranking him 27th of 156 hitters with a minimum of 250 batted balls. His hard-hit rate -- the percentage of a player's batted balls with an exit velocity of 95-plus mph -- is 42.9 percent, which ranks him 20th of the 156 batters. Since July 1, Gurriel's hard-hit rate jumps to 46.9 percent, which ranks him ninth of 101 players with a minimum of 100 batted balls.
Gurriel, who played in 36 games with the Astros after signing with the club last summer, has made some adjustments. He hit .304 with 28 hits in 92 at-bats, including nine doubles, five home runs and 20 RBIs in 22 games to earn American League Rookie of the Month honors last month. Gurriel led all AL rookies in hits, doubles, RBIs, slugging and OPS during the month.
The infielder has 21 hits in his past 14 games -- including his first career triple on Tuesday -- after going hitless in three games during the final days of July.
"The season is intense. Spring Training was intense," Gurriel said. "I think the manager does a good job of giving us rest when he thinks we need it and we have a very strong bench, so it's not like there is a big drop in quality of play, and this is a very good team. I don't think we are all as fresh as when the season started, but that's normal."
Gurriel has already played in a career-high 104 games, and he says he played a 152-game season once -- 90 games in Cuba and 62 in Japan -- in 2013-14. The difference? The month-long break he took between the end of the season in Cuba and the start of his season in Japan.
"Everything is new to him -- whether it's the length of the season or the pitchers. His adjustments to the league have been good, and he's understanding the schedule," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's fun to be around and happy to be on this team. Everything is new, even for an older guy that's been around internationally, it's been a new experience for him."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.