LAKELAND, Fla. – José Altuve insisted he tuned out the hecklers. He couldn't avoid a pitch that grazed him.
“He was hit in the foot. That ain’t nothing, you know what I mean?” Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday after an 11-1 win over Detroit at half-empty Joker Marchant Stadium. “It wasn’t intentional.”
Altuve was loudly booed when he was introduced for his spring training debut, cheered when he struck out and called a cheater by several fans. Quite a difference from past years, when the diminutive All-Star second baseman was among the most popular players in the majors.
But that was before Altuve and his Houston teammates were implicated in the sign-stealing scandal that’s rocked baseball.
“We just heard a lot of noise, and that's it,” Altuve said.
Altuve and fellow starters Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel all played for the first time in the exhibition season. After Houston opened the Grapefruit League in the stadium it shares with the World Series champion Washington Nationals, this was the first time the Astros were away from their complex — providing a taste of the reaction they might receive on the road this year.
“We were focused on playing baseball. We know that we need to go on the field and get ready and prepared for the coming season,” Altuve said. “That’s what we’re thinking about right now.”
Actually, the reception during the visit to Tigertown USA was fairly tame compared to what it figures to be during the regular season.