Bregman Eyeing Bounce-back Season (www.mlb.com)

HOUSTON — It should probably come as no surprise that Astros third baseman

was working as hard in the gym this offseason as he does on the baseball field. Bregman’s work ethic has never been questioned but coming off a subpar season in 2020, he was more determined to return to an elite level.

Bregman said Thursday he put on 27 pounds of muscle from last season and still managed to look fit and trim while helping Houston businessman Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale pass out refurbished computers and new printers to families in need with young students at Gallery Furniture. Bregman, 26, said he’s currently at 207 pounds, which is about the weight he played at in 2018-19 when he had the two best seasons of his young career.

“Just got in the gym and got after it,” Bregman said. “Definitely last year left a sour taste in my mouth and I’m going to get after it and get ready to go.”

After a terrific ’19 season in which he finished a close second to Mike Trout in the American League Most Valuable Player race, Bregman struggled through much of 2020 like several star players did around the Major Leagues. He hit .242/.350/.451 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 42 games. He was out from Aug. 20 to Sept. 8 with a hamstring strain.

Bregman said the extra muscle will help him hold his position during his swing.

“Last year, I wasn’t able to hold a single position,” he said. “I was really spinning off the ball. Mechanically, I was horrible. I’m looking forward to getting back to being myself.”

That would be great news for an Astros team that lost one of its core position players in free agency when outfielder George Springer signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last month. Bregman said seeing Springer wearing the red, white and blue of the Jays will be tough.

“You know I wish George the best,” he said. “Great guy, great teammate. He’s going to have tremendous success there and they’re going to love him. The fans are going to love him there. He’s just a great guy.”

The disappointment of losing Springer was softened somewhat when veteran outfielder Michael Brantley agreed to return to Houston on a two-year deal. That came after he nearly was in agreement on a deal to follow Springer north of the border.

“I was just pumped up to see him back in an Astros uniform,” Bregman said. “Mike’s an unbelievable teammate, unbelievable player. Just a dynamic bat — always hitting line drives to all parts of the field. It’s fun to hit behind him or hit in front of him, wherever I may be that day. He’s awesome.”

What gives Bregman optimism about the 2021 Astros is their deep lineup and the additions general manager James Click made to the bullpen. Houston will also return 2019 AL Rookie of the Year slugger Yordan Alvarez to the lineup after he played in only two games last year before undergoing surgeries on both of his knees.

“Great offseason,” Bregman said. “I think Mr. Click and [owner] Mr. [Jim] Crane did an unbelievable job getting Brantley, adding to the bullpen, adding some pieces, adding to the tremendous group of guys we already have down there. Looking forward to competing, but it takes a lot of hard work to get to where we want to go. I can’t wait to start that journey.”

The Astros, who finished seven games behind the A’s in the AL West last year to end their run of consecutive division titles at three, are still a force to be reckoned with in the AL. They are the likely favorites to win the division this year and are looking for their fifth consecutive trip to the American League Championship Series.

“We’re a good team. We’re damn good,” Bregman said. “We’ll be ready. We’ve got to compete and work hard. We’ve got to get to camp and work our tail off. To get back to our fifth straight ALCS would be very difficult so we’ve got to get to work.”

Bregman and his teammates will be in camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., in about two weeks and few will be saying Spring Training is too long this year. Then there’s the grind of a 162-game season, which has Bregman more fired up than anything.

“Super excited,” he said. “It feels like we haven’t played in two years so it’s good to get back.”

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