Abreu close to rejoining Astros, could return this weekend

May 21st, 2024

HOUSTON -- Less than a month after agreeing to be optioned to the Minor Leagues to get his swing back on track, Astros first baseman José Abreu could rejoin the team as early as this weekend, manager Joe Espada said Monday.

Espada confirmed the comments made Sunday by general manager Dana Brown on the team’s pregame radio program on 790 AM in Houston. Brown said Abreu could rejoin the Major League club for the series in Oakland, which begins Friday.

Abreu reported to the Astros' Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., in early May to try to get his timing back amid his early-season struggles. Abreu was hitting .099 with a .269 OPS, one extra-base hit and three RBIs in his first 22 games. In Florida, he worked out almost daily, often with Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell watching closely, and has appeared in three Gulf Coast League games, going 3-for-14 with two doubles and one strikeout.

“He’s actually looked really good,” Espada said. “I saw the videos and reports from our coordinators. I like the [changes] he’s made to his swing. His at-bats have also been pretty good -- competitive and hitting the ball hard. The plan is, if he clears the next couple of days, [he] will play a few [rehab] games. Like Dana said, if everything looks good, he’ll join us this weekend.”

Triple-A Sugar Land is at home this week, which is where Abreu would likely continue his rehab before being activated. Espada said Abreu’s swing is much simpler than it was when he left Houston.

“He usually has that little toe tap and the hands are moving a lot and now it’s simpler and direct to the ball and more in control of his body,” Espada said. “Rotation looks really good. If he’s able to repeat that same swing, we’ll see the Abreu we saw last year.”

In the new Baseball Savant bat-tracking data that was released last week, Abreu’s swing speed from April 3-April 28, which was his final game before being optioned, was 72.6 mph, which is above league average of 72.0. The bat speed was still there.

“He looks like he’s in a much better offensive position, but also mentally,” Espada said. “That’s another area we wanted him to clear his mind and reset and we feel he’s getting closer.”

Abreu, who’s in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract with the Astros, slashed .237/.296/.383 with 18 home runs and 90 RBIs in 141 games last year for Houston. The Astros have performed well without Abreu, with veteran Jon Singleton getting most of the starts at first base. Singleton had a .702 OPS and four home runs entering Monday.

“I’m going to talk to José when he gets here, but I do want to say that for us to see the adjustments he’s made and get him back going, he’s going to have to play,” Espada said. “José Abreu is part of this team. We cannot get to where we want to get to without José Abreu. We’re going to need all hands on deck.”