Up to challenge, Correa excels in planned start

Up to challenge, Correa excels in planned start

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter issued a challenge to Carlos Correa on Wednesday: Correa was going to start Thursday's game against the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, and he was going to have all day to think about it.

Correa started one game earlier this spring, but Porter wanted to see how the 19-year-old shortstop would respond when he didn't just show up at the ballpark and see his name in the lineup. As it turned out, Correa couldn't have handled the challenge much better.

The Astros' top prospect hit two home runs, his first of the spring, and made a pair of excellent defensive plays in Houston's 7-5 win over Toronto, showing off the enormous potential that got him picked No. 1 overall by the Astros in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

"Outstanding performance," Porter said. "He responded the way you would want your player to respond, and to go out there and perform the way he performed today, it's pretty impressive."

Correa's big day began in the first inning, when he teamed up with left fielder L.J. Hoes and catcher Carlos Corporan on a relay play that cut down Jose Bautista at the plate. Correa received Hoes' throw from the outfield and fired a laser right to Corporan, who tagged out the sliding Bautista.

"He's very good. I've actually had the chance to be able to play with Manny Machado, and I tell Correa this a lot -- that he reminds me a lot of him, the way they look, the way they move on the field and the way they swing the bat. It's very similar," Hoes said. "That's somebody great that you want to be compared to. He's going to be a great ballplayer as long as he continues to work and develop."

In the third inning, Correa deposited a high sinker from Esmil Rogers over the left-field fence for a solo homer, his first of the spring. He continued his excellent work in the field in the fourth inning, ranging to his left to snag a Brett Lawrie grounder then spinning and making the throw to first base in time for the force out.

"I was just focused. [Porter] told me I was going to start," said Correa, who wasn't expecting to play all nine innings, either. "I came out here with the mentality to play hard, play the game the right way, do my best all the time out there on the field the whole time out there and respect the game."

Correa launched his second homer in the eighth off Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner, lofting another high fastball into the wind and eventually over the wall in right-center field for a two-run homer.

"Age aside, this guy's a really good baseball player. There's no age criteria on how good you can be, but he's a focused individual," Porter said. "He's one of the first ones to the ballpark. He's the last one to leave. His attention to detail is mature for his age, but that's why he plays the game at the speed at which he plays it; because he's confident."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.