MLB News Story - Addition of vets leaves Astros with 'sky high' expectations

 
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Addition of vets leaves Astros with 'sky high' expectations

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By KRISTIE RIEKEN

AP Sports Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Carlos Beltran met with Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve this offseason to pick their brains about the ins and outs of the Houston Astros.

They talked about players, coaches and some logistics concerning the team. But soon the conversation veered into a much more important topic, and the crux of why Beltran wanted to rejoin the Astros after spending a storied four months with the team more than a decade ago.

"At the end of the day the conversation was about how we can be better," Beltran said. "How we can be better as a ball club and they have some ideas and I have some ideas. So our time at spring training is going to be us trying to get together and put a plan together so hopefully we can execute it."

The 39-year-old Beltran is among a handful of veterans the Astros added this offseason to supplement their young and talented core as they try to make a deep postseason run after narrowly missing the playoffs last year.

"I want to have the opportunity to play in October, that's what it's all about," said Beltran, who wowed during the postseason in 2004 in his first stint in Houston. "You want to create an environment where you can get to October and once you get to October anything can happen. So I felt like this team was going to give me that opportunity."

Houston acquired Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki to boost the experience of a team where the majority of the position players are 27 or younger. Regulars include 22-year-olds Correa and third baseman Alex Bregman, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft.

"With the core guys that we had with the guys that we added it's stacking up to be something pretty fun I would think," outfielder George Springer said.

They players love how the vibe of the team has changed from the painful rebuilding years when the Astros had three straight 100-loss seasons capped in 2013 when they bottomed out with a franchise-worst 111 losses.

"I remember when I was first drafted it was like - five years from now and all about the prospects," right-hander Lance McCullers said. "And now it's World Series or bust. But that's where you want to be."

As the Astros full squad reported for camp on Friday, players still were lamenting a terrible start to last season when they went 7-17. This year, they're clear that the only acceptable outcome is making the playoffs for the second time in three years. They hope for much more.

"The expectations are sky high," left-hander Dallas Keuchel said. "I think we're putting that on ourselves and I think the motto is: `If you don't really talk about it, you're not going to really be about it.' We've got the guys now where we're in a position to really make some noise."

Manager A.J. Hinch is looking forward to meeting with his entire team for the first time this spring training on Saturday and making sure the guys know what he believes they're capable of this season.

"I'm anxious just to get in front of them and talk about the opportunity that we have and talk about how special that we can make it," Hinch said.

So what other gems of wisdom does the manager plan to bestow on the Astros

"Let's talk about it tomorrow. ... I'll probably think about it tonight a little bit," Hinch said with a grin.

NOTES: Correa had his wisdom teeth removed on Thursday and was could be limited in the first couple of days of camp. "I think he had a few toothaches over the last week or so which is why it wasn't taken care of before," Hinch said. "He didn't really have any symptoms until this week. So he may be delayed a little bit in some of the overall activity, but it's not a long-term issue."

Updated February 17, 2017

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