Correa's return to Astros' lineup delayed by soreness

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch will have to wait at least one more day to get his complete lineup into a Grapefruit League game.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, back with the club after a stirring World Baseball Classic, complained of midsection soreness brought on by extensive coughing and requested one more day off.

''I'd like to play some games and have a true lineup, but even today where it feels like everybody's back, then all the sudden we don't have Correa in the lineup,'' Hinch said Saturday.

''Originally I planned on playing him but once he showed up in the training room coughing and sniffing and all that stuff it was easy to pull him out.''

Correa started feeling cold-like symptoms while still in Los Angeles for the WBC finals. He didn't arrive back in South Florida until the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. Saturday morning marked his first time back in the clubhouse.

Playing for Puerto Rico, Correa hit .333 with three homers to lead a run to the silver medal.

''It was an unbelievable experience - something I would never forget,'' Correa said. ''I had a great time playing baseball - the most fun I've had playing baseball.''

Few teams saw their lineup disrupted by the WBC as much as the Astros, who had five every day players miss nearly all of Grapefruit League play.

Carlos Beltran, who hit .435 as Correa's teammate on Team Puerto Rico, rejoioned the Astros' lineup on Saturday and had an infield single in three at-bats in Houston's 4-1 loss to Washington.

''This is what is important, getting ready for the season,'' the 19-year year veteran said. ''I think the Classic put us in a good position. You play very intense games. You face a lot of good pitchers. You get four at-bats every day, so at-bat wise I feel like I'm right where I need to be.''

Third baseman Alex Bregman's relatively few plate appearances - no one on Team USA saw fewer than his five - concerned Hinch as the WBC progressed. If not for the WBC, this would have been Bregman's first full spring training as a member of the major league club.

The 22-year-old Bregman did get 23 at-bats in seven Grapefruit League games before leaving for the WBC. In two games since rejoining the Astros he has one hit in six plate appearances, with the knock coming in Saturday's final at-bat.

''We'll be petty cognizant of what he's doing physically,'' Hinch said. ''He's going to play today. He'll be off tomorrow. He may or may not get a few of the minor league at-bats.''

Bregman hit from the No. 2 spot in the order, a place where he feels comfortable. Hinch said he would also like to toy with the left-handed hitting Josh Reddick or another lefty bat in that second spot before the Astros break camp, simply to see if he likes the look.

''I honestly feel like I'll be fine,'' Bregman said. ''I feel great in the box. The game I got to play (in the WBC) was after a week-and-a-half off and I got two hits and felt good. I'm just going to try and work really hard these next few days. I feel ready.''

Left fielder Nori Aoki returned the Houston lineup following his stint with Team Japan. With Venezula eliminated prior to the semifinal round, second baseman Jose Altuve was back in Grapefruit League action on Monday.

Reliever Luke Gregerson, who made four scoreless appearances for Team USA, is back with the Astros but has yet to take the mound since returning.

NOTES: Hinch announced that Lance McCullers will start Friday and Joe Musgrove next Saturday in exhibitions against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park. Dallas Keuchel will be Houston's April 3 opening day starter against Seattle.

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