NEW YORK -- George Springer realizes that he's getting close to the big leagues. He's in Triple-A and has spent his first three weeks with Oklahoma City hitting the cover off the ball. He played in the Futures Game on Sunday, and occasionally, Major League callups follow appearances in the game.
He tries not to think about the Majors too much, even if playing at Citi Field made it more tangible.
"You're so close, and you're right there, and you come here for a day and you want to stay," Springer said before a brief pause. "But it's OK."
Springer batted third and started in right field for the U.S. Team in the Futures Game on Sunday. Delino DeShields, who batted second and started at second for the U.S., and Carlos Correa, who entered as a defensive replacement for the World Team, joined him as the Astros' representatives at the game. With three players, Houston matched the Orioles and Mets as the most heavily-represented organizations.
With his performance on Sunday, Springer showed why he's the closest out of the trio to a Major League assignment.
In the fourth inning, he launched a screaming fly ball to the left fielder. An inning later, he got hit by a pitch, and then legged out a ground ball to the shortstop for an infield single in his final at-bat.
In 17 games with the RedHawks this year, Springer is batting .404 with seven home runs, but he's more than just a power hitter. He's also stolen five bases, with 28 total steals this season.
"If I hit it well, I can hit it well and if not, I'm going to run," Springer said. "Until I'm called out, I'm going to keep going."
DeShields and Correa both saw limited action, as the second baseman went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and the shortstop ended the game standing in the on-deck circle without an at-bat.
The presence of three Astros prospects in the Futures Game certainly gives the club something about which they can be excited. Houston's 33-61 record is the worst in the Majors. Since 2010, it's embarked on one of baseball's most dramatic rebuilds, shipping much of its Major League talent elsewhere for prospects.
These efforts, combined with successful drafting, have yielded promise. Springer was the No. 11 pick in 2011. DeShields was the No. 8 pick in 2010. Carlos Correa was the top selection in 2012, and 2013's No. 1 overall pick, Mark Appel, is now playing with Correa at Class A Quad Cities.
"When I see our Minor League organization, when I was in Spring Training I was like, we have a lot of talent here, a lot of young talent, which is good," Correa said before Sunday's game. "I think the Astros in the future will have a good organization -- will be having a winner."
Just because they've showcased their abilities, though, doesn't mean a callup is coming. If numbers were all that mattered, Springer would've been in the Majors long ago.
He still could get a call sometime in the second half, but there's no reason to rush him. The Astros are still a year or two away from contention.
"They're not rushing nobody," said DeShields, who is playing for Class A Advanced Lancaster. "They're being patient and making sure we're ready to go when we get there, and that's a key part to the development process."
When Springer does inevitably head to Houston, his experience will be different. His home in New Britain, Conn., is about an hour and a half from Citi Field. His mother and father were both at Citi Field on Sunday with "a whole crew," Springer said.
What will be the same is the thrill of playing on a big league diamond. He knows he's close. Sunday made that even more real. He just has a few steps to go to make it back.
"You're out there, you're in a big league stadium, it's a great environment. It's just one of those things where you've got to think that, 'I'm close, but I've got to do a lot more to get back here.'"
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less