WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — George Springer’s goal for 2020 has the ring of a 1980s shoe marketing campaign.
“I want to be like Mike,” the Houston Astros slugger said, referring not to Jordan but to teammate Michael Brantley.
Brantley has a smooth swing when he is healthy.
“I just want to be consistent,” he said. “I don’t want to be hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold.”
A four-time All-Star, Brantley has finished among the top 10 in batting average four times in 10 full seasons.
Houston signed Brantley as a free agent before the 2019 season.
“I’m going to annoy you this year because I need the help,” Springer told Brantley last year. “I want to be consistent like you.”
Springer hit .292 with a .383 on-base percentage and a .974 OPS last, all career bests.
“He helped me tremendously last year,” Springer said. “I rely on him probably more than anybody I’ve ever relied on in my life. He knows my swing probably better than myself.”
Springer is trying to shorten his swing, reducing some of the arm and hand movement that can lead to wild misses.
“When he gets a little bit off we talk about it and he gets right back on track,” Brantley said.
Springer singled off Elieser Hernández in the third inning of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to a Miami split squad. Brantley followed with a liner off the top of the right-field wall for an RBI double.
In his next at-bat, Springer struck out on a wild swing and lost balance on the follow-through.
The third-inning hit was only Springer’s third of spring training. Brantley is 5 fo -11.
Even if Springer doesn’t match Brantley’s consistency, new Astros manager Dusty Baker doesn’t plan on pulling him from the lead-off spot.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Baker said. “It’s good the way it is. I told Springer the other day he reminds me of past lead-off hitters Bobby Bonds, Felipe Alou, Tommy Agee. These guys were hitters and sluggers at the same time. He can either get on base or it’s 1-0 our favor. This guy, he’s one of the best.”
Notes: Battling an illness, José Altuve returned to the Astros complex, a day after being told to stay home on Tuesday. Altuve isn’t expected to play again until Friday. Yordan Álvarez continues to rest his ailing knees and is at least two days from returning to the lineup.
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