Houston (CBS HOUSTON) — The Alex Bregman era in Houston has officially arrived.
The Astros finally called up the ballyhooed infield prospect and former No. 2 overall pick out of LSU from Triple-A Fresno, the team announced after Sunday’s 13-3 win vs. the Angels.
Houston hosts the Yankees for a three-game set starting Monday in Minute Maid Park. Bregman is expected to be in the lineup for the first game of the series.
“We feel like his time is now to add whatever he can to a good clubhouse, a good team and not have to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
The move appeared imminent prior to Friday’s series opener against Los Angeles, but a Twitter report on his promotion didn’t come to pass. Bregman himself had hinted he could make his debut vs. the Angels to SportsRadio 610 early last week.
The delay turned out to be only a brief diversion.
Bregman has played left field and third base in recent weeks, since his natural shortstop position is currently filled by reigning American League Rookie of the Year and 21-year-old star Carlos Correa.
The team wanted to get him more reps at various positions before the call-up, but Hinch emphasized that Bregman is ready.
“He’s answered every challenge we’ve thrown at him,” Hinch said.
Bregman’s torrid Minor-League run suggests he may be the next prolific hitter in a Houston lineup already featuring Jose Altuve, Correa and George Springer.
The infielder cranked 20 home runs in 80 games between the Double-A and Triple-A ranks this season, a huge power surge for a player previously known for his singles prowess. He hit .333 with a 1.015 OPS in 18 Triple-A games, homering four times in his first week with the team.
“He’s been raking in the Minor Leagues,” Correa, a presumed mentor, said of Bregman. “He’s going to be a star for years to come.”
Call-up requests reached a crescendo after his performance at the All-Star Futures Game on July 10. Against the best prospects in baseball, Bregman was a homer shy of the cycle after his first three at-bats.
“He’s going to be a superstar,” Altuve said. “I think everyone thinks the same way on that.”
Bregman will likely play some combination of third base, left field and designated hitter, a utility role unfamiliar to the career shortstop.
Still, he only committed one error in 105 1/3 innings at third base in the Minors this season.
But the bat is his calling card and Bregman could immediately slot in the top half of the order, perhaps in the No. 2 spot, especially if Marwin Gonzalez’s sprained left ankle is more than a nuisance.
Hinch said Bregman will start Monday’s game, but his exact position hasn’t been decided yet.
The playing time situation will surely get more complicated upon recent Cuban signee Yulieski Gurriel’s expected arrival in August. Given the Astros’ hot stretch of late, Hinch said Bregman won’t have any extra pressure to carry the team or reverse its fortunes.
“He doesn’t need to be Superman,” Hinch said. “He just needs to be Alex Bregman. Pretty exciting moment to be able to promote this guy for a team that’s playing pretty good baseball.”
A moment all season in the making, and now Bregman is finally in Houston. The Astros expect the prodigious hitter to be a key cog for a playoff run as they chase down the Rangers in the American League West. And he’s no longer just a Minor-League sensation or valuable trade bait.
“If we’re good right now when he’s coming in, then we just got a lot better,” Correa said.