Center fielder resumes leadoff role; White sent to Triple-A
By Fabian Ardaya
CHICAGO -- One of baseball's best teams has one of its best players back. The Astros activated outfielder George Springer from the disabled list Wednesday afternoon, in time for the 27-year-old to assume the leadoff spot in Houston's game, a 7-1 loss to the White Sox.
Typically, dropping one of your team's hottest hitters -- Alex Bregman -- from the leadoff role to the seventh spot would raise eyebrows. Not if you're Astros manager A.J. Hinch and you have Springer, who missed 13 games with right quad tightness.
"Not really, I mean George Springer is pretty good," Hinch said, when asked about dropping Bregman from the leadoff spot.
Bregman went 2-for-4 Wednesday with a double and now has an 11-game hitting streak, matching the club record with 10 straight games with an extra-base hit. Springer singled in his first at-bat, going 1-for-4.
"I think part of the reason why our offense is the best in the league in a lot of categories is the depth," Hinch said. "Regardless of how guys are swinging, we're going to have somebody hit seventh, somebody hit eighth, somebody hit ninth, and those guys have been arguably the best in baseball as a group in 7-8-9. I always like our guys to like where they hit or want to be at the top of the order, but which guy are you going to take out?"
Springer underwent a rigorous workout Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field and was declared good to go after he felt fine Wednesday morning. The 2017 All-Star said he wanted to make sure he was 100 percent on the quad before testing it in game action.
"You've got to be able to play how I know I'm able to play and that's full speed," Springer said. "However long that took, I was going to have to wait. I'm happy to be back."
The Astros, who entered Wednesday with a 14-game lead in the American League West, went 5-8 in Springer's absence. Hinch said the club missed more than just Springer's impressive production, which included a Major League-best nine leadoff homers to go with a career-best .310 batting average and .973 OPS.
"It's his presence, the threat of him doing anything on the field to help us win," Hinch said. "His youthful exuberance -- there's not a day that he plays and his uniform's not dirty, he doesn't run into a wall, he hasn't made a diving catch, hasn't been on base, he hasn't done something productive."
In a corresponding move, the Astros optioned infielder Tyler White to Triple-A Fresno. White had been productive of late, putting together nine hits in as many games and having a stretch this weekend where he hit three homers in as many at-bats.
"Tyler White deserved to stay, but there's only 25 roster spots," Hinch said. "Getting Springer was key for us, so we decided to go that way."
Hinch said the club elected not to go down a man in the bullpen or option infielder J.D. Davis, who has played in just two games since being called up to make his Major League debut on Saturday. With Davis in the bigs, the club can spend more time acclimating Yuli Gurriel to playing first base and see how Davis could contribute to a pennant chase.
"With Davis, we just want to see how the power translates here, the at-bat quality that we can look at," Hinch said. "Two games is not enough to make a determination where he fits in short term or long term, so he's going to get more opportunity."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.