Astros expect OD feel for lineup post-Classic

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Astros still had five players participating in the World Baseball Classic heading into Tuesday night’s semifinal between the United States and Japan after Puerto Rico punched its ticket to Wednesday’s championship game with a thrilling win over the Netherlands on Monday.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday that he expects all five players — designated hitter Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico), shortstop Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico), third baseman Alex Bregman (United States), reliever Luke Gregerson (United States) and outfielder Norichika Aoki (Japan) — to travel back to Florida on Friday. With all the position players in camp, Saturday’s lineup against the Nationals should have an Opening Day feel for the Astros.

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“I suspect Saturday will be the first time we see our team in its entirety,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It will be fun.”

Aoki left the Astros to join Team Japan after only two Grapefruit League games, and the other four players have been gone from camp for more than two weeks.

“It’s been a great experience for those guys,” Luhnow said. “We miss having them here, but they’re getting a lot out of it, clearly.”

Correa, playing third base, made a spectacular defensive play and walloped a homer in Puerto Rico’s 4-3 win Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“He’s had a nice little run here in the WBC,” Hinch said. “I get to be around him all the time, but he still is maturing, and I think events like this, center stage, on a national stage, you can tell how much it means to him. He’s bought into some of their team dynamic stuff, and he’s had a nice little step forward maturity-wise.”

The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service’s 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage — including schedules, video, stats and gear — is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

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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