Top prospect Correa homers twice in Astros' win
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) Given a day to prepare, prized Houston infield prospect Carlos Correa delivered in a big way.
Told that he would start, the 19-year-old Correa hit his first two home runs of spring training and led the Astros over the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5 Thursday.
Manager Bo Porter told Correa, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, on Wednesday night that he would be in the lineup.
''A lot of time with young players, you'll go up to them and tell them that, because you kind of want to see how they're going to respond,'' Porter said. ''And he responded the way you would want your player to respond.''
''The way he performed today was pretty impressive,'' he said.
Correa and Jon Singleton connected off Blue Jays starter Esmil Rogers for back-to-back homers in the third inning.
Correa connected again in the eighth, hitting a two-run drive to center field off Neil Wagner.
''I was just focused,'' Correa said. ''He told me I was going to start today.''
''I came out here with the mentality to play hard, play the game the right way and do my best all the time on the field,'' the shortstop said.
Porter said while Correa still has room for improvement, his work ethic has been outstanding.
''He's a focused individual,'' Porter said. ''He's one of the first ones to the ballpark, he's the last one to leave. His attention to detail is mature for his age, but that's why he plays the game at the speed he plays it - because he's confident.''
Astros starter Dallas Keuchel yielded six hits and struck out two in four scoreless innings. The left-hander, who was 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA last season, has not allowed a run in three starts this spring.
Anthony Gose finished 2 for 2 with a triple and double, and scored three runs for Toronto. Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, Melky Cabrera and Dan Johnson also doubled for the Blue Jays.
Blue Jays: Rogers, a candidate for the fifth spot in Toronto's rotation, allowed four earned runs, walked two and struck out six in three innings.
Rogers struggled with command of his changeup, which led to Singleton's home run.
''The only way I can get better is when I pitch and throw the changeup,'' he said. ''I just have to make my pitches and work a little bit more out of the stretch and try to get my command out of the stretch because I'm a little quick when I have runners on base.''
Astros: Keuchel said throwing against high wind gusts was tough, but he was happy to keep solid command on all of his pitches.
''Always got to be a little happy with throwing up some zeros, but that wind was kind of a challenge there in the first inning,'' he said.
''You know, I'm warming up in the bullpen and always getting loose and you never know how the wind is going to respond. But I think I had a little bit more movement on my two-seam and my changeup, so that was kind of nice,'' he said.
Blue Jays: Manager John Gibbons said left-handed starter J.A. Happ (sore back) is scheduled to throw three innings in a minor league game on Friday in Dunedin.
Astros: Top pitching prospect Mark Appel could make his first appearance of the spring next week. Appel, the first overall selection by Houston in last year's amateur draft, underwent an appendectomy in January.
Porter said reliever Jesse Crain (right biceps surgery) is continuing to make progress in the organization's training program and his arm strength is increasing. The right-hander had an 0.74 ERA in 36 2-3 innings with the Chicago White Sox last season. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in July, but did not pitch because of the injury.
Porter said L.J. Hoes is still in the mix for the starting spot in right field despite a hip injury early in camp. George Springer, Marc Krauss and J.D. Martinez also are in contention.
Porter said Hoes, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline last season for right-handed starter Bud Norris, played well enough down the stretch to get a look this spring.
''He's got about two weeks to get ready for opening day,'' Porter said. ''L.J. is a guy that's always gotten on base (and) has great minor league numbers. He came here last year and was a great asset to our ballclub the second half of the season and we believe he's going to be able to help us a lot this year.''
Hoes started in left field against the Blue Jays. He began a relay in the first that nabbed Jose Bautista at the plate when the slugger attempted to score from first base on a double by Edwin Encarnacion.
MELKMAN IN THE MIDDLE?
Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera could see time in center field during the regular season now that he has fully recovered from complications stemming from a benign tumor, which was removed from his lower back last September.
Gibbons said he will probably only use Cabrera there against a tough left-hander, or if Colby Rasmus needs a day off.
''That's where he played today and he played there in Lakeland the other day and did a nice job,'' Gibbons said. ''He only got a couple balls, but he's done it before. When he came up with the Yankees, he played center field and he played it in Kansas City and played it very well.''