Fresh faces Correa, Altuve, Bellinger in World Series
By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carlos Correa is such a fresh face, his first big league hit was assisted by technology.
When he made his debut for Houston on June 8, 2015, Correa hit a three-hopper off White Sox ace Chris Sale and was called out by first base umpire Larry Vanover. About a minute later, a replay umpire in New York overruled the call , and the 20-year-old had an infield single and his first RBI.
“It feels like it was yesterday. Not long ago, I got drafted by a team that lost 111 games in a season, and now we’re in the World Series,” Correa said Monday. “It’s pretty incredible.”
A new generation of ballplayers is featured in the World Series starting Tuesday night. Houston’s dynamic infield duo of Correa and the diminutive Jose Altuve sparks the top offense in the major leagues. The tantalizing trio of Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Chris Taylor has the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series for the first time since 1988.
“Media day in Oklahoma City was about two people there, and now I’m here and getting ready for the World Series,” Bellinger said, surrounding by dozens of reporters in the Dodger Stadium’s Dugout Club. “I could never imagine this.”
Altuve skipped Triple-A and made it to the major leagues on July 20, 2011, after Houston traded Jeff Keppinger to San Francisco. He singled off Washington’s Tyler Clippard that night in his big league debut.
Houston finished last in each of his first three seasons. Now Altuve is among four Astros remaining from the team that lost a club-record 111 games in 2013, joined by pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock along with utilityman Marwin Gonzalez.
At 27, Altuve already is a five-time All-Star and three-time batting champion.
“I’m coming from a team that lost a hundred games in a row three years, three straight years,” he said. “We made the playoffs in 2015. We didn’t make it last year, and after last year we were a little uncomfortable because we were watching the playoff games from home.”
Dallas Keuchel, the Astros’ Game 1 starter, thought back to when he met Altuve when they were on the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Class A New York-Penn League in 2009.
“He hadn’t really hit puberty yet, and so he sounded different,” the pitcher said. “He sounded like he shouldn’t even have been playing baseball.”
Correa, the top pick in the 2012 amateur draft, was a first-time All-Star this season, hitting 24 homers and driving in 84 runs despite a torn ligament in his left thumb that needed surgery, causing him to miss 42 games.
Bellinger, son of former Yankees infielder Clay Bellinger, started the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City and made his debut April 25 at San Francisco. He found out about his call-up at 2 a.m. after noticing he had four missed calls from Dodgers farm director Gabe Kapler.
At 21, Bellinger became the youngest position player in Dodgers history selected for the All-Star Game, set a National League rookie record with 39 homers and had 97 RBIs in 132 games. Now he’s talking to his dad about his three World Series appearances.
Seager, at 23 the youngest of three brothers who played pro ball, was a unanimous pick as NL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and repeated as an All-Star this season. He became the first Dodgers player since Jackie Robinson in 1947-48 with 30 doubles or more in each of his first two seasons, and his 52 career home runs is already second-most among Dodgers shortstop behind Pee Wee Reese’s 122. He missed the NL Championship Series after hurting his back on a slide into second base in Game 3 of the Division Series but is expected to be in the starting lineup for the opener against the Astros.
He thought back to watching on television as Derek Jeter led the New York Yankees to the 2009 title.
“It’s pretty easy to fall in love with the guy, on and off the field what he did for that community, what he did for that culture, that team,” Seager said.
Taylor blossomed at 27 after 2 1/2 unremarkable seasons with Seattle. Traded to the Dodgers in June 2016, he started the season at Triple-A, was called up April 19 and earned the leadoff spot in the batting order. He had three grand slams and finished with a .288 average, 21 homers, 72 RBIs and 17 steals.
“It’s crazy how fast things can change in this game, both ways, starting the year in Triple-A, playing in front of like maybe 100 people and then getting to this stage,” Taylor said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey.”
Correa would like a Series ring to add to his mementos. He has the ball from his first hit, but given the delay, can he be 100 percent sure?
“Maybe it was the wrong ball,” he said with a laugh and a smile.
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