A bad back might’ve saved Jose Abreu’s season, as the first baseman’s debut season in Houston didn’t start to turn around until a two-week stint on the injured list in August. Abreu was batting only .234/.291/.343 in 464 plate appearances prior to the IL trip, yet as Astros hitting coach Alex Cinton told ESPN’s Buster Olney, Abreu “was a different guy” after returning to action. Abreu improved to .248/.315/.530 with eight home runs over 130 PA in the rest of the regular season, and he has a .962 OPS and four homers over 39 PA during Houston’s postseason run.
Beyond just letting his back heal, the IL trip also seemed to serve as a mental reset for Abreu after the grind of his first four-plus months. After signing a three-year, $58.5MM contract with Houston last winter, Abreu was perhaps too eager to contribute to his new team. Olney writes that “Cintron began to view Abreu’s relentless diligence as a problem. As Abreu relentlessly took batting practice, his coaches believed, he was sapping his energy day after day — and likely prolonging his slump.” Fortunately for all parties, Abreu has found his form at the ideal time for an Astros team that is one victory away from a return trip the World Series.
More from around the American League….
- Former Nationals assistant GM Johnny DiPuglia is interviewing with the Rays about a front office job, according to reporter Francys Romero (via X). DiPuglia had been working as Washington’s international scouting director since 2009 and assistant GM since 2020 before he resigned from the organization in September, reportedly due to the Nationals’ desire to reduce his salary. It isn’t surprising that the Rays (and presumably other teams) have interest in hiring DiPuglia, who has over 30 years of experience of scouting and front office experience, and a rich history of success in finding and developing Latin American talent.
- Zach McKinstry is planning “to live in the weight room” this offseason to improve his core strength, the Tigers utilityman tells Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press. This represents a departure from last winter, when McKinstry was rehabbing from a torn groin suffered in August 2022, though he played through the injury without going on the IL. The interruption to his usual offseason routine may have been a reason behind McKinstry’s underwhelming .231/.302/.351 slash line over 518 PA last season, not to mention the increased workload as a whole. McKinstry had played in only 121 MLB games and received 364 PA from 2020-22 as a member of the Dodgers and Cubs before taking on a regular role with Detroit in a variety of different positions. Petzold notes that McKinstry is out of minor league options, so there’s less of a margin for error as the uilityman will try to retain his spot as a multi-positional option. “I’ll try to get my rotational strength a little bit stronger. Hopefully, it can last me a little bit longer throughout the whole season, not just one month, two months or three months,” McKinstry said.