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Notes: Taylor's stuff; Astros baserunning

@brianmctaggart
February 19, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the first things the Astros did for lefty Blake Taylor, acquired from the Mets in the Jake Marisnick trade, was show him a glimpse of what he could become. The Astros sat Taylor down and showed him video of Brewers lefty reliever Brent

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the first things the Astros did for lefty Blake Taylor, acquired from the Mets in the Jake Marisnick trade, was show him a glimpse of what he could become. The Astros sat Taylor down and showed him video of Brewers lefty reliever Brent Suter.

Considering Taylor has pitched only a handful of innings in his career above Double-A, seeing himself compared to a big league pitcher with similar stuff resonated with him. Taylor said his fastball is comparable to Suter and he was blown away by the amount of information the Astros showed him.

“They show you everything,” Taylor said. “They say, ‘This is how much hop your fastball has, this is how much your slider has.’ The information is there and they’re hands-on and work with you. Everything is specialized to you. It’s not cookie-cutter. … I hope to make an impact on this team and if I break with the team that’s awesome, and if I don’t, I’m going to work my [butt] off to get up there.”

Taylor had a 2.16 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings at three different levels in the Mets' system in 2019 -- the first in which he was exclusively a reliever. The Astros only have four lefties on the 40-man roster -- Kent Emanuel, Cionel Pérez and Framber Valdez are the others -- and manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday he’d like to carry a lefty in the bullpen this year. The Astros did have a lefty in the ‘pen for much of last season and in the playoffs.

“I like lefties,” Baker said. “A lefty that can’t get lefties out he may as well be a righty. That’s the key. You’ve got to get a lefty that’s going to get people out. I’m sure if they had a couple of lefties they thought they could get lefties out better than righties last year I’m sure they would have went with them.”

Taylor, 24, threw live batting practice in big league camp for the first time Wednesday, facing Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, a pair of former All-Stars.

“I was expecting to be pretty nervous up there but I said I’ve worked hard to get here and belong here and just tried to do what I can do up there and felt really good,” he said. “The ball was coming out of my hand well. It did speed up a little bit when Correa stepped it. After that I dialed it back in the zone.”

Aggression fits Baker
Under former manager AJ Hinch, the Astros were an aggressive team on the bases. Hinch preached taking the extra 90 feet whenever possible, and third-base coach Gary Pettis -- who is still with the club -- always pushes the envelope when it comes to sending runners, and with great success.

Baker said he plans to continue the aggression on the bases this year, and the Astros spent part of Wednesday morning working on baserunning on the back fields at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Baker said aggressive baserunning is a lost art.

“You can’t be just aggressive. You’ve got to be smart about it,” he said. “You’ve got to take secondary leads. You’ve got to know who can throw in the outfield, who goes side to side well, and so you have to know a lot about the opposition as well as yourself.

“Baserunning can create a lot of mistakes on the opposition. You’re going to get thrown out every once in a while, but if you don’t try anything, that’s very boring baseball and you don’t put pressure on the opposition.”

Alvarez knees an issue
Baker said he would like to play designated hitter Yordan Alvarez in the outfield more this year, and Alvarez said when he arrived at camp last week he had worked on his mobility in the outfield in preparation for perhaps playing in the outfield more.

Alvarez, who clubbed 27 homers and drove in 78 runs in 87 games last year en route to being named the American League Rookie of the Year, dealt with knee problems in the second half of last year after he fouled a ball off his knee in June. Alvarez started 74 games at designated hitter last year and nine in left field, which was typically in National League ballparks to keep his bat in the lineup.

“I’d like to see him play a little more outfield, but I’ve been told that his knees are barking sometimes is the reason why he doesn’t get more work in the outfield,” Baker said. “If his knees are barking and he can’t hit, then he’s not doing us or himself any good. I’d like to see him play some outfield, if nothing else to give him some weapons other than just DHing and also to give some other guys time off to DH. It’s two-fold. We have our eyes on him.”

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