Second baseman's hamstring improving, but Hinch won't risk aggravating injury
By Brian McTaggart
DENVER -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch is being extremely cautious with second baseman Jose Altuve, who has been dealing with a right hamstring strain since last Friday. Altuve was out of the starting lineup on Thursday against the Rockies after leaving Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Rockies in the third inning when Hinch sensed the hamstring was giving Altuve some problems.
Altuve, who narrowly trails Kansas City's Omar Infante in voting for American League All-Star second basemen, entered Thursday hitting .287 with five homers, 28 RBIs and an AL-leading 17 stolen bases. Altuve said his hamstring is around 80 percent healthy or a slightly better, but Hinch doesn't want Altuve to play until he's 100 percent.
"It's day to day," Hinch said. "He's already gone through one round of treatments, and he'll go through another round of treatments. He's doesn't feel a lot of discomfort, so that's an encouraging sign. I really don't want to play him until we're certain he can play with the pace of play that we're accustomed to. We'll be very careful with him."
The only other middle infielders on the Astros' roster are Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez, so not having Altuve leaves the club thin. Hinch said he'd play Altuve in an emergency but that there are contingency plans. Third baseman Luis Valbuena came up as a middle infielder and could play in the middle, with catcher Hank Conger manning third, if necessary. Catcher Jason Castro could also be put at first base in an emergency.
Hinch wasn't sure if Altuve would be available for the series at Seattle this weekend.
"We're being cautious," Hinch said. "I'm the one being the most cautious, because when you see your players on the field play a little guarded, whether they think they are or not, it's my job to make the decision to be careful."