Altuve was loudly booed when he was introduced for his spring training debut, cheered when he struck out and called a cheater by several fans. Quite a difference from past years, when the diminutive All-Star second baseman was among the most popular players in the majors.
But that was before Altuve and his Houston teammates were implicated in the sign-stealing scandal that’s rocked baseball. “We just heard a lot of noise, and that's it,” Altuve said. Altuve and fellow starters Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel all played for the first time in the exhibition season. After Houston opened the Grapefruit League in the stadium it shares with the World Series champion Washington Nationals, this was the first time the Astros were away from their complex — providing a taste of the reaction they might receive on the road this year.
“We were focused on playing baseball. We know that we need to go on the field and get ready and prepared for the coming season,” Altuve said. “That’s what we’re thinking about right now.” Actually, the reception during the visit to Tigertown USA in Lakeland, Florida, was fairly tame compared to what it figures to be during the regular season.
Early arrivals in the announced crowd of 4,891 were discouraged by ushers from gathering near the Astros dugout unless they had box seats along the third base line. Hecklers aired their voices after batting practice, booing during introduction of lineups and each time Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Gurriel stepped up to the plate. Altuve got some cheers, too, when he was charged with an error for dropping a throw by Bregman from third base on a force play.
The quartet was treated to one more round of boos when they left the game and made the long walk up the first base line to the visiting clubhouse. Altuve took a third called strike to a round of cheers in his first at-bat, then lined a crowd-quieting RBI double into the left-field corner his next time up.
Altuve showed no signs of being upset when he was grazed with a pitch by Tigers reliever Nick Ramirez after the batter before him, Myles Straw, homered in the fifth inning. The 2017 AL MVP was replaced by a pinch runner.
Baker planned to play Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Gurriel no more than five innings anyway in Houston’s first true road exhibition since a Major League Baseball investigation found the Astros broke rules by illegally stealing signs during their championship season in 2017.
Earlier, Detroit’s starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, who fanned Altuve in the first inning, said it wasn’t difficult to block out the booing and heckling and remained focused on playing the game. “It's spring training. Honestly, let's let it die. What's done is done. I know how everybody feels, but no one is going to change anything now,” Boyd said. “The punishment's been handed out, the line's been drawn in the sand. Hopefully that shuts it down, and it's just best for everyone to move forward. They've got to live with it. That's more than enough punishment.”
Elsewhere around the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues: COLE'S DEBUT Gerrit Cole struck out two and walked one over a hitless inning in his spring training debut for the New York Yankees against Pittsburgh.
Cole's first pitch to Adam Frazier was a 97 mph fastball. After Frazier popped out and Bryan Reynolds struck out, Cole Tucker drew a walk. The right-hander then fanned Josh Bell to finish up. The game ended in a 3-3 tie after nine innings.
Cole signed a $324 million, nine-year contract as a free agent after going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts last season for the AL champion Houston Astros. ASTROS 11, TIGERS 1 After an impressive September call-up, Bryan Abreu was impressive in his spring debut, striking our four of the Tigers he faced, including perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera. All four went down swinging. Jake Adams hit a solo homer, scored twice and drove in four runs.
Matthew Boyd struck out three Astros over two innings, allowing two hits and a walk. Overall the Tigers staff surrendered 14 hits. Detroit managed just four hits, only one for extra bases — a double by Troy Stokes, Jr.
TWINS 3, RED SOX (SS) 2 Kenta Maeda made his first appearance in a Twins uniform, pitching two innings and allowing a leadoff home run to Andrew Benintendi. Maeda was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 10. Nelson Cruz made his spring training debut, hitting a two-run homer.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had two singles for Boston. Nathan Eovaldi allowed two hits and struck out four in two innings. RED SOX (SS) 2, RAYS 2 Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the Japanese league outfielder signed by the Rays to add some power to the lineup, homered in his second game. He has yet to make an out, walking twice with a single and home run.
Nick Lovullo, son of Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, played second base for the Red Sox. Tanner Houck, Boston's first-round draft pick in 2017, walked two and gave up a hit in a two-inning start.
MARLINS 6, CARDINALS 3 Sandy Alcantara, expected to be the Marlins' opening-day starter, threw 19 of 38 pitches for strikes in two innings. He allowed one earned run, two hits and three walks. Cardinals starter John Gant worked two hitless innings, as did Ryan Helsley. Junior Fernández and Zack Thompson, the Cardinals' No. 1 draft pick last year, each worked an inning as St. Louis held the Marlins hitless through six innings.
PHILLIES 8, ORIOLES 7 Mikie Mahtook hit a three-run homer for the Phillies and Logan Forsythe homered and single. Expected to battle for a spot in the rotation, Vince Velasquez worked two innings and allowed a hit, walking one and striking out one.
Alex Cobb worked an inning in the start for the Orioles, allowing a hit. After getting picked off waivers repeatedly during the offseason, Pat Valaika homered. BLUE JAYS 4, BRAVES 3 Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, and Randal Grichuk each doubled for the Blue Jays. Starter Shun Yamaguchi got just two outs against projected Braves bench players. He allowed three hits and hit a batter while struggling with his command.
Braves starter Max Fried, who won 17 games last year, retired one batter and gave up three earned runs in his spring training debut. Ian Anderson, the team's top pitching prospect, gave up an earned run, two hits and two walks over two-thirds of an inning. Dansby Swanson had two hits.
METS 2, NATIONALS 1 Wilson Ramos homered and singled for the Mets while pitcher David Peterson, the team's first-round draft pick in 2017, allowed one hit and struck out two over two innings. Wil Crowe, the Nationals' second-round draft pick in 2017, gave up two hits and struck out one in two innings.
REDS 9, RANGERS 6 Nick Castellanos, a doubles-hitting machine (58 last season) who signed a free agent contract with the Reds earlier this month, had a double and fellow Cincinnati newcomer Mike Moustakas homered. Luis Castillo, the opening day starter a year ago, did not make it out of the first inning in his spring debut, allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks.
A day after getting the start in center field, infielder Nick Solak was Texas' designated hitter and had a two-run homer. The team announced that starting pitcher Brock Burke will likely miss the entire 2020 season with a shoulder injury that will require arthroscopic surgery.
ROYALS 8, PADRES 5 Jorge Soler homered for the second time this spring and Khalil Lee added a solo shot for the Royals. Bubba Starling had two hits and stole a base. Greg Holland, who re-signed in late January, worked a clean inning.
Manny Machado homered and Fernando Tatis Jr. doubled for San Diego. Cal Quantrill struck out four in his two-inning start. Drew Pomeranz gave up two hits and an earned run in an inning of work. DODGERS 2, WHITE SOX 2, 9 INNINGS
Mookie Betts had two hits and Cody Bellinger doubled for the Dodgers. Cody Thomas hit one home run and saved another with a leaping catch to rob Blake Rutherford. Ross Stripling, who is working a changeup into his arsenal of pitches, struck out two in his one-inning start.
Yermin Mercedes, Chicago's Triple-A catcher, belted a tape-measure home run to left and Matt Skole hit an RBI double in the ninth to tie the game. Non-roster invitees Alex McRae and Adalberto Mejia each worked two scoreless innings.
BREWERS (SS) 2, ANGELS 1 The favorite to draw the opening day start, Brandon Woodruff walked a batter in his one-inning start. Angel Perdomo struck out two in his one-inning of relief. Chad Spanberger, a sixth-round pick by the Rockies in 2017, homered.
Dillon Peters struck out three in his two-inning start for the Angels. Jared Walsh doubled. BREWERS (SS) 12, ATHLETICS 1 Orlando Arcia hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs for the Brewers. Keon Broxton doubled and Lucas Erceg homered and singled.
Sean Manaea struck out two over 1 2/3 innings, but was tagged for six earned runs on six hits, two of them home runs and three more doubles. Luis Barrera tripled. GIANTS 11, DIAMONDBACKS 9 Evan Longoria hit a two-run double and Jaylin Davis doubled and tripled for the Giants. Drew Smyly recorded strikeouts on two of his five outs in the start. Shaun Anderson was roughed up in his inning of relief, allowing three runs on four hits with a strikeout.
Starling Marte made his Diamondbacks debut and singled in two at-bats. Zac Gallen, who came to Arizona in a trade with Miami last year and is battling for a slot in the rotation, worked two clean innings with a strikeout. Andrew Chafin retired the side in order in his inning of relief.
ROCKIES 12, INDIANS 8 Francisco Lindor and Bradley Zimmer each belted a two-run home run. Zach Plesac, nephew of former major league reliever Dan Plesac, gave up a run on two hits while striking out two in his two-inning start. Logan Allen had a rough debut, giving up four runs, two of them earned, on three hits and two walks while recording just one out.
Chi Chi Gonzalez was touched for four runs on four hits while recording five outs in the start for the Rockies. Yency Almonte worked a clean inning of relief, striking out two of the three batters he faced, to earn the win in relief. Of Colorado's 13 hits, only two went for extra bases.
CUBS 13, MARINERS 9 Josh Phegley became the third Cubs catcher to homer when he belted a three-run shot in his first at-bat. Willson Contreras homered in the opener and Victor Caratini followed with a home run in Sunday's game. Albert Almora Jr. went 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs. Adbert Alzolay struck out the side in his one-inning start, but also walked one and allowed two earned runs on three hits.
Marco Gonzales, the Mariners' ace, was tagged for five runs on three hits and two walks and did not make it out of the first inning. Dylan Moore hit a two-run homer.
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