WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. – There’s no question that the Houston Astros have the makings of defending their American League West title this season.
But can they get back to the World Series after falling just short last season?
With the signing of All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and the return of their already stellar infield and outfield, they’re confident they can get back to the top.
“Nothing changes honestly, it’s the same mentality and that mentality is win,” Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said.
Winning has become a part of the Astros culture. They’ve won 100-plus games in each of their last two seasons. And they believe their new three-time All-Star Brantley will be a key addition in their success.
“He’s always watching, he’s always kind of paying attention,” Houston outfielder George Springer said. “He understands the game and he is pretty good at what he does.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch is particularly excited about Brantley’s arrival.
“There is nothing not to like,” Hinch said. “As far as additions, he was the perfect addition to this team. He is a perfectly placed player.”
Brantley is no stranger to championship expectations. The former Cleveland Indian played in the 2016 World Series and now looks forward to competing for a title with his new team.
“You see the talent you know (in lineup spots) one through nine, then you see the bench guys, you see the pitching staff and you see the bullpen,” Brantley said. “We are built to win a lot of baseball games.”
The Springer-Brantley combination in the outfield will back up a strong pitching staff led by 2011 Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, who has used this spring to work on his off-speed pitches.
“I need to get the slider back,” Verlander said. “The change-up has been good I think. I have the feel for that I don’t need to worry about. I just need to get my timing right and get my slider down.”
The Astros are loaded with MVP candidates offensively, but don’t overlook the team’s star-studded pitching rotation, either.
“I wouldn’t count out Verlander or Cole,” Hinch said.
And as spring training comes to an end, Hinch is looking for smooth sailing from here on out.
“Just get to the end of camp healthy,” he said. “We know who without the exception of maybe one decision. We know pretty much who is expected to break with our team. Now, I don’t want any surprises.”