WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Jeff Bagwell played alongside fellow Hall of Famer Craig Biggio for years, helping plenty of Houston clubs reach the postseason.
Bags knows talented teams. And to him, this group of Astros is something special.
”They’re a machine right now,” he said.
”Now when these guys step on the field, they know they are better than the team that they are playing against. That’s a great feeling to have,” Bagwell said.
Inducted into the Hall in 2017, Bagwell hit .297 with 449 home runs in a 15-season career spent entirely with the Astros. The 49-year-old former first baseman is among a list of Houston guest instructors, along with Biggio and pitcher Nolan Ryan, scheduled to appear in camp during the coming weeks.
Bagwell will work primarily with the first baseman during his three days in camp with the World Series champions, a role that took on greater importance with Wednesday’s news that starter Yuli Gurriel will miss the beginning of the season after undergoing hand surgery. Bagwell also work with baserunners.
”People forget he was a pretty good baserunner and stole double-digit bases virtually the majority of his career,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ”Anything he wants to offer we’ll take.”
Drafted by Boston, Bagwell was in the minors when he was traded to Houston. He got to the World Series once, in 2005 when the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox.
Bagwell remains in awe about what the Astros accomplished last season.
”I don’t know if you can be both, but I was jealous that I was not part of that because I never got the chance to feel that, but I was ecstatic because of these kids man, they are just great kids,” Bagwell said. ”They go about baseball the right way.”
Among those stars is Jose Altuve, the AL MVP.
”His bad swings, he doesn’t put in play,” Bagwell said. ”His really bad ones, he puts in play, they dribble over the plate and he beats them out. And then he can hit .346, too. He’s the total package,” Bagwell said.
A five-time All-Star, Altuve won his third batting title last season. He also hit 24 homers and scored 112 runs.
”Here’s a kid that goes out there and leads the league in hitting every year, has over 200 hits – he hit, what, .346 or something last year?” Bagwell said. ”And all the defenses that you see out there, the shifts and all that, there is no way to defense that kid. He is right field line to left field line. He hits the ball with power to both sides of the field.”
Shortly after praising Altuve, Bagwell focused his admiration on current shortstop Carlos Correa.
”If Carlos stays healthy, he’s a once-in-a-generation type player, and so is Altuve,” Bagwell said. ”And to have both of those guys up the middle, never mind (George) Springer in center, too, but those two guys up the middle they’re very special. They’re fun to watch, too. They seem like they have fun. They enjoy playing with each other. It’s a neat thing to look at.”