WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- You can't help but learn a few things when you had the kind of year Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa experienced last season, when a nagging back injury derailed him in the second half and forced him to deal with the biggest adversity of his
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- You can't help but learn a few things when you had the kind of year Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa experienced last season, when a nagging back injury derailed him in the second half and forced him to deal with the biggest adversity of his young career.
Correa, limited to 110 games after spending six weeks on the injured list in the middle of the season with a sore back, struggled to get comfortable at the plate in the second half and postseason, and he hit the winter determined to be better conditioned. He took up yoga, vows to work smarter this spring and reported to camp Saturday promising to return to his All-Star form.
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If anyone needed proof, Correa put on a show by squaring up several balls while taking batting practice on the back fields at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. He later said the ball was flying off his bat.
"I don't think last year I hit a baseball like that after I got hurt," Correa said. "It feels good to be back and be healthy and be able to let it eat."
Coming off a 2017 season in which he started the All-Star Game at shortstop for the American League and helped the Astros win the World Series -- he hit five home runs in the playoffs -- Correa batted .239/.323/.405 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs and a career-low .728 OPS last year. He missed 36 games from June 26 to Aug. 10 with back soreness. He hit just .180 with a .517 OPS in 133 regular-season at-bats after he returned.
"Last season is behind me, but I learned a lot from it," Correa said. "I learned so many things from my injury last year, and this year my main focus is I already showed up ready in Spring Training. I'm not going to overdo it and I'm going to go out there and do what's necessary so I perform on Opening Day and play in 160 games. I feel like last year I overdid it in Spring Training, so this year I'm going to be smarter about that. That's the biggest thing I took from last year -- work smart and not just hard all the time."
To get more limber, Correa did a lot of rehab and back-strengthening exercises. He also took up yoga, which he does two or three times a week, to keep his body flexible.
Correa's teammates certainly haven't lost faith in his abilities entering his age-24 season.
"He could be the best player in the league," third baseman Alex Bregman said. "He's that good. He's a superstar."
Correa hasn't lost his superstar status despite his '18 struggles, but he's determined to live up to those expectations once again. That starts with health.
"When you look at my numbers and the position I play, when I'm healthy they're great numbers," he said. "That's what I do when I'm healthy. That's what I normally do. This year I'm going to go out there and stay on top of everything in order for me to be healthy like I know I can."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.