HOUSTON -- The Astros' biggest offensive acquisition in 2019 may not be veteran outfielder Michael Brantley. A healthy and productive Carlos Correa will go a long way toward Houston's chances of winning its second World Series in three years.Correa, coming off a down 2018 season in which he hit .239
HOUSTON -- The Astros' biggest offensive acquisition in 2019 may not be veteran outfielder Michael Brantley. A healthy and productive Carlos Correa will go a long way toward Houston's chances of winning its second World Series in three years.
Correa, coming off a down 2018 season in which he hit .239 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs and a career-low .728 OPS in 110 games, said Thursday's he's 100 percent healthy after dealing with back and side soreness for much of the second half of last season. He also had surgery in November to fix a deviated septum that had been causing breathing problems his entire time in the big leagues.
"I'm feeling great," the All-Star shortstop said during a stop of the team's annual caravan at Shriners Hospital in Houston. "I'm 100 percent. I've been hitting pretty much every day and doing my workouts five, six times a week, and my back has been feeling awesome."
That's terrific news for an Astros team that is less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla. The team signed Brantley in December to bolster the offense and add to the young core of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Correa.
Correa, 24, hit .268 with an .832 OPS, 13 homers and 49 RBIs in the first half last year before a big second-half slide while battling back soreness. He hit .180 with two homers and a .517 OPS in 37 games following the All-Star break and went on the disabled list for six weeks.
Back pain was such an issue last year that Correa said every swing caused pain, and he even had difficulty walking and sleeping.
"I'm sleeping [well] right now," he said. "I wasn't during the season because, obviously, I knew it was bothering me. It's good to be able to go to be knowing you're healthy."
Correa's mind is also at ease, which is a good sign for Houston considering how much the injury weighed on him in the second half. When he was healthy, he was the Astros' cleanup hitter. Manager AJ Hinch kept Correa at cleanup when he returned from the DL in August before dropping him to fifth and eventually sixth in the batting order. He played sparingly in the final 10 games of the regular season.
"[When] you're not physically ready to go out there and compete, mentally, it's annoying," Correa said. "Right now, I'm seeing better than ever. I'm happy and I'm working out two hours, and then I go hit for another hour and when I go to sleep, my back is in perfect condition."
Because they were being challenged in the American League West last year by the A's, the Astros perhaps pushed Correa to come back earlier than he was physically ready. Correa knows that now and admits playing with a debilitating back injury isn't doing anyone any favors.
"I have to let it heal 100 percent in order for me to get back," he said. "Those are lessons you learn. At the same time, I'm happy I'm 100 percent right now, and I'm healthy, and I'm excited about the season."
While Correa gets himself ready for the start of spring camp, his representatives are getting ready for an arbitration case against the Astros. Correa, arbitration-eligible for the first time, is asking for $5 million in 2019; the club has offered $4.25 million. An arbitration hearing is set for Jan. 31, Correa said.
"It's a process that some players have to go through," he said. "Nothing major. We're trying to go through arbitration and get what we're worth. It's nothing bigger than that."
The parties have up until the scheduled hearing to come to terms on a 2019 salary.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>