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Baseball notebook: Cuban star Gurriel singles in big league debut for Astros

Houston’s Yulieski Gurriel looks up during the National Anthem before playing his first Major League game at Baltimore. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)
Houston’s Yulieski Gurriel looks up during the National Anthem before playing his first Major League game at Baltimore. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)
From wire reports

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch has already described Yulieski Gurriel as an international star. Now, the 32-year-old Cuban is getting a chance to make his mark in the majors.

Gurriel singled in his first big league at-bat Sunday after being called up from Triple-A Fresno earlier in the day and went 1 for 2 with a walk as the designated hitter. He left the game in the eighth with right hamstring tightness and is day-to-day.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to get my first hit that fast,” Gurriel said. “I will take care of (the ball) and put it away and put in a place that is very special.”

Gurriel was the designated hitter against Baltimore, and he came to the plate after waiting a bit – the start of the game at Camden Yards was delayed more than four hours because of rain.

“This is the one test in his whole life he has never answered,” Hinch said. “He’s played at every level in the world and been on the center stage and one of the best international players for a long time. This will be different for him, he’ll feel like a rookie again.”

Gurriel, who signed a $47.5 million, five-year deal with the Astros on July 16, is primarily a third baseman. This weekend, the A.L. wild-card contenders sent third baseman Luis Valbuena back to Houston to re-evaluate his injured right hamstring, and he could be out for the season.

But Gurriel can play other positions and could possibly get some time in left field, Hinch said. Gurriel said he is open to helping the club any way he can.

“I’m not going to be nervous. Excited is probably a better word,” Gurriel said through a translator. “This has been a dream of mine for years. For a Cuban player to make it is a big deal, so I’m excited.”

Gurriel batted .250 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games (56 at-bats) with four Astros’ minor league affiliates. That was enough for Houston to give him an opportunity at the major league level, especially with Valbuena ailing.

“He got up to 50 at-bats with us in the minor leagues,” Hinch said. “That’s a normal spring training for him. We’ve bounced him around the country. But from a baseball standpoint, he’s ready and he’s ready for this challenge. To add him to this group is exciting for us, certainly fun for us, our guys will be excited about it. His baseball readiness, he’s in shape and ready to go.”

Gurriel said the biggest adjustment might be dealing with all of the excessive travel of a major leaguer. That was never an issue in his native Cuba. He got his first taste of that grind flying from California to Maryland to meet his new teammates.

“Those trips are always a little tiring,” Gurriel said. “Obviously, in Cuba I didn’t travel as much as they do here. But I’m ready to play and help my team today.”

Galvis adamant Phillies should extend protective netting after ball strikes girl

Freddy Galvis watched on Saturday night as his foul ball struck the face of a young girl and that image was enough for him to become adamant that the Phillies should install protective nettings behind the entire dugouts.

Major League Baseball gave teams recommendations last winter to extend their protective netting to anywhere within 70 feet of home plate. The Phillies added about 10 feet to the netting they had behind home plate as the net now stretches to the inner edge of the dugout.

“What year is this? 2016? It’s 2016 and fans keep getting hit by foul balls when you’re supposed to have a net to protect the fans,” Galvis said. “The fans give you the money, so you should protect them, right? We’re worried about speeding up the game. Why don’t you put up a net and protect all the fans?”

Phillies executive vice president and chief operating officer Mike Stiles said last December that the team’s fans “differ in their opinions about sitting behind protective netting and we will do our best to accommodate those different preferences.”

“The Phillies expanded our netting this season to the sides of the dugout near home plate, as was suggested by Major League Baseball. We decided earlier this season to consider the possibility of further expansion next season,” Stiles said in a statement on Sunday. “In making that determination at the conclusion of the 2016 season, we will take into account a number of factors including the opinion of our uniformed personnel and, most importantly, the wishes and safety of our fans.”

The Phillies were one of 19 teams to extend their netting before the season. Galvis said the Phillies should have installed a net behind the dugout “two years ago and maybe even before that.”

Only Kansas City, Minnesota, and Washington constructed netting that covers the entire length of the dugout. Galvis imagines a net that covers the field during play but goes down between innings.

“They’re worried about stupid stuff,” Galvis said. “They should worry about the real stuff. That’s real stuff.”

The girl who was hit by Galvis’ line-drive on Saturday was taken to Children’s Hospital for further evaluations, according to the Phillies. She was sitting behind the visiting dugout on the third-base line.

Galvis – who has a young daughter – said the incident hit home.

“What if I broke all her teeth. What if I broke her nose. If I hit her in one eye and she loses that. What are they going to do? They’re going to forget in three days,” Galvis said. “It’s going to be a big deal for two, three days. Everybody in TV, media, whatever. But after three days what’s going to happen? They’re going to forget. But that family won’t forget that. Do you think the little baby will forget that? It’s true life. It’s something you have to put before everything. Safety first. Safety.”

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