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Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve ‘surprised’ Carlos Correa to join Minnesota Twins

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve officially learned he would have a new double play partner during a late night phone call with Carlos Correa himself.

Altuve had not anticipated signing Correa with the Minnesota Twins.

“I was surprised. I didn’t expect that, Altuve said on Sunday. Obviously we will miss him. He’s a great player and a great guy inside the club. He was the one of our leaders.”

Correa signed a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Twins on Friday night. The shortstop was the most coveted free agent left on the market.

Altuve, a seven-time All-Star and 2017 AL MVP, and Correa, a two-time All-Star, have been stalwarts in the middle of Houston’s defense and at the top of the order since 2015. The duo helped lead the Astros to their only World Series title in 2017 and return trips to the series in 2019 and 2021.

A career .277 hitter with 133 home runs, Correa hit .279 with 26 home runs and 92 RBIs last season and also won his first Gold Glove.

“Now that he’s on another team, I’m happy for him, Altuve said. He’s done a lot. Happy for him. I know he’s going to play well. He’s going to make the Twins better.”

Altuve, 31, said he and Correa, 27, are committed to staying close through frequent phone calls and video chats.

“We had dinner so many times, Altuve said. We spent a lot of time together in rooms talking about different things. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Days before Correa’s decision, Houston manager Dusty Baker named Jeremy Pena as the favorite for the start of the opening day. Widely considered one of the Astros’ top prospects, Pena is a career .291 hitter in the minors. He batted .287 with 10 homers in 30 games at Triple-A Sugar Land last season.

Pena, 24, and son of former major leaguer Geronimo Pena, has a locker in the Astros clubhouse next to Altuve.

“I’m happy for Jeremy that he can get the opportunity to come and play in the big leagues and establish himself as an everyday player,” Altuve said.

While Baker would have liked to have Correa in the roster, his signing removed some of the fog that had engulfed Houston’s camp this spring.

“Nobody likes to be in an uncertain situation,” Baker said. “Everyone likes clarity.”

Yet some habits are hard to break.

Players arriving at the clubhouse Sunday morning before the Astros-Washington exhibition game saw a familiar name written in the cleaning spot on the day’s lineup card: Correa.

Baker’s decision to keep his major league position players out of early games this spring allowed him to pitch the upset of Carlos, JC, at the designated hitter position against the Nationals.

JC hit .310 with nine home runs and 57 RBIs last season in 101 games split between Class A Fayetteville and Class A Asheville.

Now learning to play catcher, JC had one six-hit game and two four-hit games last season, his first as a minor leaguer.

“That’s a lot of hits,” Baker said.

To note:

• Nationals minor leaguer Darren Baker pulled out the roster card for the pre-game trade with his dad, Dusty. Darren and Dusty hugged above home plate, then posed for photos together and with the umpires. Darren then entered the game playing second base.

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