RIPPLE EFFECT

How Jose Abreu’s imminent return could shake up Houston Astros lineup, roster

Astros Jon Singleton, Jose Abreu, Mauricio Dubon
Who gets sent down when Jose Abreu returns to the team? Composite Getty Image.

Hey, it’s not my money, why should I care?

All indications point to Jose Abreu and his albatross contract rejoining the Houston Astros early next week. Abreu will be inserted into the lineup, at least on a platoon basis, with lefty Jon Singleton, and given “every opportunity” to regain the form that won him an American League MVP in 2020.

But how long does “every opportunity” last? Of course fans (more so Astros owner Jim Crane) hope that Abreu’s return is successful and he is once again a productive Major League power hitter, like when he led the American League in RBI in 2019.

What if he goes 0-4, 1-4, 0-2 (his batting average when he left the Astros three weeks ago) his first week back and the Astros struggle? What if Abreu, as many suspect, is washed?

What then? It’s believed that owner Crane is loathe to cut bait on Abreu and eat the remainder of the $58.5 million contract he signed before last season – which would be about $34 million with nothing to show for it.

On April 30, the day Abreu was dispatched to West Palm Beach instructional camp to find his long-lost swing, the Astros were 10-19, dead last in the American League West.

Since Abreu’s departure, the Astros have gone 12-8 and moved into third place trailing the first place Mariners by only five games and the second place Rangers by a mere two games. Simply, the Astros have a shot at making the playoffs.

Singleton has taken advantage of inheriting the starting first base job. He’s hitting .229 with five homers and 14 RBI – including a mammoth shot into the Minute Maid Park batting eye Tuesday night in the Astros 6-5 win over the Angels.

This week outfielder Chas McCormick returned from injury and the Astros sent infielder Trey Cabbage down to Sugar Land.

What’s going to happen when Abreu is back? Who is on the chopping block? Astros general manager Dana Brown suggested, or at least raised the possibility, that Joey Loperfido could be demoted to Sugar Land so he can play every day and cut down on his strikeouts.

Joey is a fan favorite. How you doin’? Almost a month after leaving the Sugar Land Space Cowboys for the Astros, he’s still tied for the home run lead in the Pacific Coast League. If Loperfido is sacrificed to make room for Abreu, it won’t sit well with fans.

Dana Brown and manager Joe Espada are fond of saying “look at the back of his baseball card” when defending Abreu.

OK, let’s do that.

Abreu, 37, is batting .099 with no home runs and three RBI in 77 plate appearances.

Loperfido, 25, is batting .333 with one home run and five RBI in 43 plate appearances.

Seen enough?

Abreu spent the last three weeks in Florida trying to regain his stroke. In four games in the Gulf Coast League, he went 6-for-18 for a .333 batting average. The Gulf Coast League is rookie-level. It’s the lowest-rung of minor league baseball in North America.

Sending a big leaguer to the Gulf Coast League to rediscover his batting form is like sending a PGA golfer to play goony golf at Chuck E. Cheese to improve his putting.

Again, everybody hopes that the Astros are getting the Abreu of old. There’s a chance he could just be old.









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Tucker teams with Topps! Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.

Juan Soto has been on baseball cards with Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts.

But this one, well, this one was a little different for Soto. This one had the New York Yankees slugger and Puerto Rican musician Daddy Yankee.

“It surprised me. It really struck me when they told me. ... It came over to my house, and I saw myself with Daddy Yankee,” Soto said. “It was just great. I mean, the Big Boss! It’s just great.”

The Soto-Daddy Yankee collaboration is one of two “Signature Tunes” cards that are part of the latest edition of Topps Series 2 as the famed card company shines a light on players and the artists behind their walk-up music.

Houston Astros slugger Kyle Tucker and rap superstar Travis Scott are on the other “Signature Tunes” card. Scott is from Houston, and he gave the Astros pairs of his Air Jordan 1 Low Olive shoes last year.

There are 25 autographed versions of each duo in Series 2, which was released on Wednesday.

“You don’t see too many of those, you see them typically with another player or something like that,” Tucker said. "But to be on a card or baseball card with someone that kind of has a further reach outside of baseball is, I think, pretty cool.”

Daddy Yankee and Myke Towers — another Puerto Rican musician — also are included in the set's “ First Pitch ” insert cards, highlighting the ubiquitous pregame ritual.

Clay Luraschi, the head of product development for Topps, said music, particularly walk-up, and for pitchers, warmup music, has become an important part of the game.

“What we really do is, we think about, OK, the core of it for Series 2 or Series 1, our flagship, it's baseball," he said, "but what are the other things that are like surrounding the game that fans are also interested in? And that’s where we come up with these other ideas that we feel like, you know, fit into the world of the game.”

Tucker was placed on the 10-day injured list on Friday with a bruised right shin. But he has been using Rich Homie Quan's “Walk Thru” as his walk-up song before his plate appearances. He has used Scott's “Escape Plan” in the past.

“Walk Thru” had been Michael Brantley's walk-up tune before he retired in January after finishing his career with the Astros.

“It was kind of somewhat of a tribute to Mike’s career and stuff. And I just kind of kept it going,” Tucker said. “Really the first game I got a couple of hits when I used it, so I just kept rolling with it and it’s done pretty well for me.”

The 27-year-old Tucker, who is among the major league leaders with 19 homers, said he likes Houston reliever Ryan Pressly using Johnny Cash's “God's Gonna Cut You Down” as his warmup music. Growing up in Tampa, Florida, he also remembers Tantric's “Down and Out” as the walk-up song for former Rays infielder Evan Longoria.

“That kind of always stuck with me,” Tucker said.

Soto, 25, has used Daddy Yankee's “HOT” as his walk-up music in the past. He was traded from San Diego to New York in December, and he went with Jay-Z's “Empire State of Mind” for his home debut with the Yankees.

“For me, it’s gotta be something that gets you hyped, it gets you really thinking about what you’re gonna do," Soto said. “Something that, you want the fans to get crazy but you want yourself to get crazy, too.”

Soto has been using “Estamos Arriba” by Bad Bunny and Towers, a song he said he got from Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames.

Asked for one of his favorite combinations involving another player, Soto pointed to Charlie Blackmon with the Colorado Rockies. Blackmon uses “Your Love” by The Outfield.

“I don’t know the name of the song, but I know it’s just like, I just know it says that, ‘I just wanna (use) your love tonight,’ and whenever they say love they just turn it off and the whole crowd goes, ‘To-night!’” Soto said. ”It was so good. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is great.’ I think that’s the only guy who can have that walk-up song."

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