Altuve on 10 years in MLB; Bregman update

July 21st, 2021

HOUSTON -- When the Astros began rebuilding a decade ago, they began trading away veteran players and replacing them with kids from the farm system. So when veteran second baseman Jeff Keppinger was dealt to the Giants on July 19, 2011, the Astros called up a little-known -- and little in stature -- hitting machine from Double-A Corpus Christi.

A day later, on July 20, 2011, the world was introduced to 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve, who celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his Major League debut on Tuesday. The team played a tribute video for him prior to Tuesday’s game against the Indians.

Altuve, 31, went 1-for-5 in his debut against the Nationals at Minute Maid Park and hasn’t stopped hitting since, having won three batting titles, the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Award and getting elected to seven All-Star Games.

“A lot of nerves, obviously, and a lot of happiness,” Altuve said when reflecting upon his first MLB game. “I couldn’t believe it. It was actually a dream come true to be in the big leagues after several years in the Minor Leagues trying to overcome every adversity, every obstacle I had. So it was pretty good.”

Altuve admitted it’s hard to believe he has 10 years in the big leagues, especially considering how difficult it was for him to even get a contract. The Astros signed him for $15,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela after he had previously been told to go home because he was too small.

“As a kid, you dream about playing in the big leagues, and it’s another thing to actually make it happen,” he said. “Even though you dream a lot about a lot of stuff, it’s hard to believe everything I’ve accomplished -- batting titles and all the stuff. I feel thankful for God, my family, teammates, everybody that made it all possible. Obviously, you cannot make it [by] yourself.”

Altuve doesn’t worry about those who told him he was too small to play in the big leagues these days.

“I like to prove people right, not wrong,” he said. “I did it for the people that actually believe in me.”

Bregman inches closer to rehab stint

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who’s been on the injured list since straining his left quadriceps June 16 while running the bases, could be sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment in the next few days. Bregman ran the bases and hit on the field Tuesday at a higher intensity.

“Hoping less than a week,” he said of his possible return to the field. “I got a few more running sessions and a few more boxes to check, but hopefully, less than a week and go down and get a few at-bats, enough to feel comfortable and [get] back at it."

Bregman hopes to get 20 to 30 at-bats during a rehab outing with Triple-A Sugar Land, which opens a six-games series at Oklahoma City on Thursday. Bregman could join the Skeeters in Oklahoma and return to the Astros in early August.

“Today was an amazing step in the right direction,” he said. “Our trainers and doctors and strength staff have been amazing with this rehab, and we’re so far ahead of schedule. It’s been awesome. Just super [thankful] to them and everybody.”

Báez throws bullpen at Minute Maid Park

For the first time since he signed a two-year deal with the Astros in January, veteran right-hander Pedro Báez met with the media after throwing in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. Báez, who was slowed by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in the spring and then suffered shoulder inflammation, threw in a pair of games in rehab outings for Low-A Fayetteville last week and will join Sugar Land for its series in Oklahoma City.

“I feel really good, feel really happy to be here with the guys after so much time off,” said Báez, who will make his first rehab appearance at Oklahoma City on Thursday or Friday.

Having Báez join the bullpen will be a huge boost for the Astros, who are in pursuit of relief pitching as the Trade Deadline approaches. Báez, 33, has appeared in 355 games in relief in seven years with the Dodgers, posting a 3.03 ERA with a 1.096 WHIP and 131 ERA+. He threw 17 innings in last year’s shortened season and gave up six earned runs with seven walks and 13 strikeouts (1.00 WHIP).

“It could be like making a trade, but you don’t have a trade anybody,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ll see how it goes. I just kind of stressed to him that we want him when he’s ready. Whenever that is, hopefully sooner rather than later.”