MILWAUKEE -- Tyler White had the greatest five-game start to a Major League career of any player in Houston Astros history. The fact this run of greatness did not extend to a sixth game should not be held against him.White had more hits (10), home runs (three) and RBIs (nine)
MILWAUKEE -- Tyler White had the greatest five-game start to a Major League career of any player in Houston Astros history. The fact this run of greatness did not extend to a sixth game should not be held against him.
White had more hits (10), home runs (three) and RBIs (nine) than any other Astros player ever had in the first five games of a career.
Even after White went 0-for-3 with a walk in a 3-2 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday, his six-game slash line was .556/.591/1.167.
Incredible, and yet, White has made improbable success a regular occurrence. He was a walk-on at Western Carolina University. White was a 33rd-round Draft choice of the Astros in 2013. He was primarily a third baseman earlier in his career, but he is playing first base for Houston now, even though at 5-foot-11, he is less than ideal height for a Major League first baseman. But so what? The way White was swinging the bat, every first-round pick in the game would be jealous. Astros manager A.J. Hinch inserted White in the seventh spot in the batting order, then the sixth and, in the past two games, the fifth. The justifiable feeling was that White would hit no matter where he was in the lineup.
"I don't want him to change one thing," Hinch said. "I want him to continue to take quality at-bats, get good pitches to hit and take whatever he's given. If they're pitching him away, he hits the ball over the right-center-field fence. He can do that in the five-hole, the six-hole, the seven-hole or wherever he's going to be."
An outstanding example of a young player in a crucial lineup spot is shortstop Carlos Correa, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, who has made himself the No. 3 hitter in Houston's order.
"Correa was similar last year," Hinch said. "You want to alleviate some of the pressure of being brand new at this level, and there comes a point where by actions these guys have made themselves more viable options for the middle of the order. Tyler White's hard to shake. He doesn't look like he'd be affected by wherever I put him. Anywhere from leadoff to ninth, he can hit."
White has hit at every level, and it is telling that his best Minor League numbers came in 57 games at Triple-A Fresno last season, when his line was .362/.467/.559.
White has tried, successfully, to remain calm in the face of big league competition and an initial tidal wave of big league success.
"I'm just seeing pitches and trying to put good swings on strikes, trying to stay with my approach, just having a good time out there," he said. "I think that's one of the better parts of my game, being able to use both sides of the fields and control the zone.
"The first at-bat, I was pretty nervous, but after that, it's baseball. It's a game. You kind of have to settle in. The strike zone is the strike zone, and the game is the game. That's the way I'm trying to look at it. Just going up there, trying to stay with my approach and have a good time playing the game."
Those are words to live by for a life in baseball. In the other half of the game, White has adapted to first base and moves well. He was charged with an error Sunday on a difficult throw, but the error did not result in a run. Saturday night, White looked like a veteran first baseman, coming off the bag for errant throws and turning them into outs with sweeping tags.
"He's been good," Hinch said. "Just over the last couple of years he's played first base, and he's adapted very well. He's a smaller target over there, so our infielders have had to adjust a little bit.
"But his mobility, he worked very hard this spring on his positioning with [bench coach] Trey Hillman, so he's comfortable getting off the base in our shifts, which is very important. He's very diligent in his work pregame. And he takes defense seriously, which I appreciate.
"That's an underappreciated position defensively, first base. Specifically for our team that shifts a lot, a lot of responsibility falls on that guy to be agile and be mobile."
The start to White's career has been the stuff of dreams. This kind of thing doesn't get sustained in baseball. Still, it offers a glimpse of the successful player that he could be.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.