Banged-up Bregman to tough it out down stretch

Rookie third baseman returns to lineup despite right hamstring injury

Banged-up Bregman to tough it out down stretch

HOUSTON -- Alex Bregman's right hamstring isn't fully healed, but the Astros are pushing him to play down the stretch anyway, with his impressive bat outweighing any concerns the club might have about his ability to run the bases.

Bregman missed 11 games with hamstring discomfort before returning as a pinch-hitter in Tuesday night's 8-4 win against the Mariners. But the rookie third baseman, who was in the lineup for Wednesday's game, didn't have to do any running after knocking his game-tying RBI single in the sixth -- catcher Max Stassi pinch-ran for him.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday afternoon that he does have some concerns about Bregman's baserunning capability. Bregman had a flight scheduled to get some work in at the instructional league camp in Florida, but it was canceled after he ended up playing.

"We have a day off tomorrow, so the thought is we can tax him a little bit today [and] hopefully avoid any sort of setback," Hinch said before Wednesday's game. "I worry about the first-to-home, when we're in the shift, him chasing the popup, or just plays that you can't practice or train for coming back from an injury unless you go on a rehab assignment, but we've got four games left.

"These are elimination-type games that we're trying to put our best team on the field [for], and he feels good enough to go. I'll cross my fingers that nothing bad happens."

But those concerns don't take away from the fact that Bregman, who Hinch at times has labeled "the perfect two-hole hitter," has been one of Houston's best players since starting 2-for-42 in the big leagues. In the 38 games since that slow start, Bregman is batting .314 (50-for-159) with 13 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 33 RBIs prior to Wednesday.

"He's very valuable," Hinch said. "I'll take four of his at-bats every single night. I get him as fast as possible [in the two-hole]. ... He's just an all-around really good player, and to have him really in the middle of everything that goes on in our lineup is a big deal for us. It just makes us that much better."

And the Astros need all hands on deck at this point in the season. With three games left to play, Houston is 3 1/2 games back of Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot, and the club also trails Detroit and Seattle in the standings.

"I'm not perfectly convinced that he's fully healed, but he also knows what's at stake," Hinch said. "So does [Carlos] Correa with the shoulder. So does [Jose] Altuve with the wrist and the ribs. ... There's a lot of guys that are fighting the fight because of where we're at in the calendar that you wouldn't ask them to do in May, June and July."

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.