January 30, 2023

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Correa thanks Espada, connects with Peña 

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This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

One of the first things Carlos Correa made sure he did when the Astros came to Minneapolis on Tuesday for a three-game series against the Twins was take a picture with Houston bench coach Joe Espada while holding the Gold Glove and Platinum Glove awards Correa won last year.

In his final season with the Astros in 2021, Correa won his first AL Gold Glove for defense and backed that up with the Platinum Glove as the top overall defender in the AL. Correa led all Major League players in defensive WAR at 3.0 last year, according to Baseball Reference, and led all AL shortstops in defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.

Correa has credited Espada for helping him take his defense to the next level and rewarded him Tuesday when he gave the Astros bench coach two gloves — one with a gold patch and trim and another with a platinum patch and trim.

“Espada is a person that I love very much,” Correa said. “He helped me improve my game in a big way — won Gold and Platinum under him. So I was keeping the awards here at the field [for] when he’ll come visit, so I could take a picture with him and thank him personally for everything he’s done for my career. And then I also gifted him one of my Gold Gloves and one of my Platinum Gloves with a patch, so he can keep them.”

Espada said it’s rare for a star player to care that much about one of his coaches.

“But I’m not surprised with someone like him,” he said. “He was raised that way, to say ‘Thank you’ and show respect for others. It’s really awesome.”

Correa is passing his knowledge of the game to his replacement. Astros rookie Jeremy Peña, who took over at shortstop after Correa signed with the Twins, was groomed under Correa and has made a solid impression in his first month-plus in the big leagues. Peña was on the taxi squad for the Astros in the playoffs the last two years.

Peña entered Wednesday leading AL rookies in homers (six) and RBIs (17) and was second in OPS (.808). According to FanGraphs, he also led the AL in defensive runs saved (7) and led all players in defensive WAR (1), according to Baseball Reference.

“Peña’s a kid that from the moment I saw him, I saw the talent in him,” Correa said. “Last year, in Spring Training, I invited him to take some ground balls with me, and while we were taking ground balls, I told him, ‘Hey, look at how we work here. Look at how we take care of business, because next year, this might be you playing this position.’ He gave me like a nod. He said, ‘Thank you.’ And then when we finished, when we lost in the World Series, I pulled him aside and I told him, ‘Hey, Peña, next year, this most likely will be your team. You’ll be playing shortstop for this team.”

Peña, the Astros’ No. 1-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, injured his left wrist diving for a grounder in Spring Training last year and had surgery that cost him much of the season, but he returned to set a career high with 10 homers while hitting .297 in just 30 Triple-A games and claimed a spot on the 40-man roster.

“I know talent when I see it, and from the moment I saw him taking ground balls and hitting BP, when you look at his athleticism and his body, he’s going to be a superstar in this game,” Correa said. “I’m very happy for him, for all his accomplishments, and I can’t wait to see him, to congratulate him. I’ll probably be out here while they’re hitting BP and come and make sure to say hi and how proud I am of him.”

Correa did just that when the two shared a hug prior to Tuesday’s game.

“He always made me feel like part of the club,” Peña said. “Even in Spring Training and practice, he always went above and beyond to make me feel like I was part of the club. You don’t forget things like that. He encouraged me to get better and gave me tips every single day.”

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