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Astros manager A.J. Hinch expects Altuve to play three days in a row heading into Thursday’s scheduled off-day, and then continue to play every day. Hinch wants Altuve to at least get a couple of at-bats a day as he gets ready for the season. Altuve was 7-for-27 for Venezuela in the Classic.
“I think we have 10 or 11 days of Spring Training, and I’m going to try to take advantage of all these days and try to be as close to 100 percent as I can be and be ready for the season,” Altuve said.
The two-time American League batting champion has only one hit in 16 at-bats in Grapefruit League play, though he hadn’t played in a game for the Astros since March 5. He said on Monday that his swing felt “kind of like in between,” which means the next 10 days will be key.
“This is the time you’re still trying to figure it out, and even last year at the start of the season my swing was a little bit in front, sometimes late,” Altuve said. “It’s a long season. That’s what I like about the season is that you have time to adjust and just try to do everything I can to help my team.”
Altuve said he took not starting against Team Italy earlier in the Classic in stride, as well as having to play third base, something the Astros had to approve.
“I did what I did for my teammates,” he said. “If I sat on the bench or if I played third, it was for my teammates. They were playing really hard, they were playing 100 percent, and because of the great group of guys we have, they deserve [him to be flexible].”
Altuve said his experience on Team Venezuela was something to cherish and added that he would certainly like to play in the next World Baseball Classic. Altuve is the first of the Astros’ key players to have been eliminated, with the United States (Alex Bregman and Luke Gregerson), Puerto Rico (Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran) and Japan (Norichika Aoki) all advancing to the semifinals, along with the Netherlands.
“If I have the chance to do it again, I definitely will do it, because of the guys that I played with,” Altuve said. “I lived one my coolest experience playing with those guys like Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Felix Hernandez, Ender Inciarte — all those guys were really good. We didn’t win the tournament — that was the goal — but I think we’re really happy with the time we spent with each other.”
Altuve doesn’t plan to watch the rest of the Classic, but he predicts at least one of his Astros teammates will come back a winner.
“We’ve got three out of four [teams remaining],” he said. “I’m pretty sure one guy in this room is going to bring the championship.”
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.
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