No longer 'dragging my towel,' McCormick thriving

August 24th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

was battling with Jose Siri for playing time in late June and feeling uneasy about his future with the Astros. Fellow center fielder Jake Meyers was set to come off the injured list and be activated for the first time in 2022, which could cut into his playing time even more.

The Astros wound up optioning Siri to Triple-A instead of McCormick, but he wasn’t in the clear. Just two days later, shortstop Jeremy Peña was activated off the injured list and, in a surprising move, McCormick was also optioned. The move was a punch in the gut for McCormick, who was wondering how he fit into the team’s future and wondered if the Astros might try to trade him. Self-doubt consumed him.

The option occurred while the Astros were in New York and McCormick hadn’t even had time to book a flight back to Texas when Astros manager Dusty Baker came up to him the following day in the lobby of the team hotel and told him veteran outfielder Michael Brantley was hurt. McCormick, as it turns out, wasn’t going anywhere.

“After I got optioned, obviously I was really upset about it,” McCormick said. “But then Brantley being hurt and me being recalled back up and not going back down there, I just think it kind of gave me a new perspective. I was like, ‘OK Chas, you got options, you have to control your attitude and effort and that’s really all you have to do. You’ve just got to have fun out here now.’”

The Astros wound up trading Siri to the Rays a month later and kept McCormick, whose role with the club has increased in recent weeks with the season-ending shoulder injury to Brantley and the strained groin that will sideline utility player Aledmys Díaz for the next few weeks. In fact, McCormick started the final five games on the Astros road trip and went 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer.

McCormick, who starts in left and center, was slashing .240/.327/.422 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 90 games entering Tuesday. His .749 OPS ranks sixth on the club behind Yordan Alvarez (1.009), Jose Altuve (.861), Alex Bregman (.830), Kyle Tucker (.815) and Brantley (.785).

“Obviously, even at the beginning of the season, I wanted more playing time, but I think I just got over that hump of whatever the lineup is, just keep working hard and keep trying your best to get in there,” McCormick said. “If not, you can’t pout, can’t complain. It was stressful with the Trade Deadline coming up and Meyers coming back up. ‘Is there enough room for me to be in there?’ There’s just a lot going on in the beginning. After the Trade Deadline was up, I cut out my complaining and I didn’t want to drag this team down. We’re super good and now since I've been getting more playing time, it’s helped me relax a little bit.”

McCormick admitted he was pouting too much, “dragging my towel, my blanket,” he said. It was frustrating to play well one day and not be in the lineup the next. It was frustrating to not be in the lineup against a left-hander despite crushing them (1.004 OPS entering Tuesday).

“I was holding myself back, holding myself down but I wanted to keep myself accountable and be more responsible and stop being a baby, basically,” he said. “What matters is us winning the World Series.”

To keep his mind clear, McCormick has begun meditating for 20 minutes daily prior to coming to the ballpark. He puts on soft music, closes his eyes and forgets everything. At the park, he works hard to improve his .645 OPS against right-handed pitchers by teaming with coach Jason Kanzler and hitting sliders and curveballs off a pitching machine each day.

“Whatever playing time I get, I need to take advantage, especially this time of the season,” he said. “My goal is to finish strong and win a World Series, and I think they need me right now with Aledmys out. This is a fun time of the year. Since you only have so many games until the playoffs, I’m going to be relaxed and I’m going to have fun and I’m going to keep working super hard. I want to try to make an impact for this team, try to win games.”