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Futures Game shows how close Astros really are

Correa, DeShields, Springer among baseball's best prospects in New York

NEW YORK -- It was a day they were reminded how close they are and how much the Astros are counting on them.

"It's right there," second-base prospect Delino DeShields said. "You can see the white light."

And yet ...

"I've still got to keep working," he said. "You keep working hard and having fun, and you'll have your opportunities."

He could have been speaking for outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa, as well. They're three of the best players in Minor League Baseball, and together, they represent three reasons the Astros are so optimistic about the years ahead.

They were together on a Major League field for the first time Sunday afternoon as part of the 2013 Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game. Nineteen players from the 2012 game have already spent time on Major League rosters, so being invited to this event speaks volumes about their places in the game.

The Astros have rebuilt their farm system in recent years and believe it's that farm system that will have them winning again in the near future. For DeShields, Correa and Springer, it's a chance to get the look and feel of a Major League ballpark and also to share a clubhouse with other highly regarded prospects.

"You look around and see where you are," Correa said. "You want to be out there in those stadiums every single day."

At 18 years old, Correa was the youngest player in the game, just a year removed from being the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. He's in Class A and on the fast track to the Major Leagues.

He entered Sunday's game as a late-inning defensive replacement and considered the entire experience a worthwhile chapter in his career.

"It was a great experience being here," he said. "It's about playing the right way, playing hard and playing focused and doing your best. Obviously you learn every single day."

He's hitting .324 at Quad Cities and seems in line for a promotion to Class A Advanced Lancaster by the end of the season. From the beginning, the Astros have said he'd be in the big leagues fairly quickly, and with the success of youngsters like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Manny Machado, the Astros will trust his development rather than a traditional timeline.

And there's Springer. He has hit 26 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. At Triple-A Oklahoma City, he's off to a fast start, hitting .404 in 17 games, and seems ticketed for the Major Leagues this season. He hit third for the U.S. Team on Sunday, singled in three at-bats and played right field.

"You're out there in a big league stadium, a great environment," he said. "It's like, `OK, you're close, but I've got to do a lot more to get back here.'"

He said there was a moment Sunday afternoon when he realized that it was a very special day.

"Getting that first at-bat and putting your foot in the box and knowing you're in a big league park," he said. "It's just awesome.

As for a timetable, he said, "I just go out and play. Whatever happens, happens."

DeShields batted second, just in front of Springer, and was hitless in two at-bats. He's hitting .290 with Lancaster.

"It was cool," he said. "To be recognized as one of the top players is an honor and a blessing. It's been fun."

He said playing in a Major League ballpark was "a little step back from reality. It's so close and so exciting. We'll see where the future takes us."

Does he think about being teammates with Springer and Correa in the years ahead?

"I think about that a lot," DeShields said. "I'm so anxious almost, but I'm also patient. Correa is still young. He has a lot of potential, a lot of upside. Give him a couple of years, and he'll be ready. You've got George, who is not human. He's putting up really good numbers. It was a fun day for all of us."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
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