ALCS Game 5

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa, left, laughs with Yuli Gurriel during batting practice before Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, at Minute Maid Park.

In recent seasons, the Houston Astros have taken to succinct team mottos to help motivate them during the long MLB campaign.

In 2017, the motto was simply “earn it,” and the Astros certainly did just that with a hard fought World Series championship win. In 2018, it was “never settle,” and while the Astros fell short of the implied goal of repeating as champions, it wasn’t because they settled for less.

Debilitating injuries to star hitters Jose Altuve (knee) and Carlos Correa (back) hampered the Astros’ once explosive offense in the American League Championship Series against the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

So, it is encouraging to read the Associated Press article describing how Correa is scaling down his spring training preparation. Correa directly blamed a maniacal pace of preparation for his back failing him late in the season last year. Now, he is cutting down by more than half the number of daily swings he takes and weekly weightlifting sessions.

The change is Correa’s routine doesn’t appear to have affected his production, as he collected two base hits in Sunday’s Grapefruit League spring training game and now has four total hits in five games.

The Astros also have wisely been careful with Altuve’s workload early on in spring training, as he has frequently been inserted into the lineup as the team’s designated hitter.

This season, the Astros’ motto is “take it back,” and the team certainly has the talent to once again be considered the best team in the majors. But, crucial to that goal of winning another championship will be the health of their key players.

While it is extremely rare for a player to go the length of a 162-game MLB regular season plus the postseason injury-free, the Astros can take measures to prevent their top players from wearing down at the end of the season when they need them most, as was the case with Altuve and Correa last year.

The Astros are off to a good start in keeping their key players from over-working themselves. Following through on this in the regular season, within reason, should be considered by management, as well.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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