Hello, Houston: Centeno makes dandy debut

Fill-in catcher homers, impresses McCullers behind plate

Hello, Houston: Centeno makes dandy debut

HOUSTON -- Juan Centeno hit a 406-foot homer, according to Statcast™ -- the fourth home run of his big league career -- in his second at-bat with the Astros, but that wasn't even the most unlikely thing to happen to the catcher Tuesday. Centeno capped his Astros debut with his first career intentional walk, earning him the Player of the Game belt from teammate Carlos Beltran.

Centeno, called up from Triple-A Fresno this week when Brian McCann went on the seven-day concussion disabled list, went 2-for-3, made a nice defensive play and helped starter Lance McCullers Jr. through five scoreless innings in the Astros' 6-2 win over the Tigers.

"Great night for him," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "You always joke with the catchers -- catch a winner and get some hits. He did both. That was some really big hits, and I thought he handled the game extraordinarily well. Given that's his first game this season with us, I'm glad he was in Spring Training with us to be very familiar with our guys. Fun night. He should be very proud of his effort, and our team responded well to him."

Centeno's quick reaction

Centeno, who signed with the Astros in December as a Minor League free agent, had three homers in 79 Major League games with the Mets, Brewers and Twins prior to hitting a two-out solo shot off Jordan Zimmermann in the fourth inning to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

"I don't hit that many homers, so that was an experience," he said. "I never saw the ball. I just put my head down and kept running."

Centeno, 27, singled and scored in the seventh and drew the intentional walk in the eighth before Jake Marisnick followed with his third hit of the game. Centeno called getting walked "weird."

"I've been working hard down there to come back up, trying to help the team as much as I can," he said. "It's a great group of guys. I have to do my best every day."

In addition to coming out from behind the plate to throw out Jose Iglesias at first with a nice play in the seventh, Centeno also drew praise from McCullers, who hadn't worked with Centeno prior to Tuesday, even during Spring Training.

"We watched a lot of film yesterday, talked a lot about body placement, glove placement," McCullers said. "He was great out there. I felt like we were on the same page a lot, and to come up and fill in and catch that well and have that big homer and a big single for us, hats off to him. He did an awesome job tonight."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.