Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez, one of the most feared sluggers in the league, is gearing up for a strong start to the regular season. Alvarez, who had been eased into swinging the bat due to a sore left hand that he reported with during mid-February, made his Grapefruit League debut recently. The Astros desperately need Alvarez’s batting prowess, especially since All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley will miss the first few months of this season due to injuries. Alvarez hit a pair of fly balls and recorded a strikeout while playing for five innings against the Nationals. Manager Dusty Baker was pleased with Alvarez’s performance, as he hit the third pitch of each of his first two at-bats on the screws. Although Alvarez missed most of the Astros’ Grapefruit League games, he believes he’s ready for the season after working hard in the cage and during practice. Alvarez also played six innings in left field and made a few plays, which suggests that he could see more time in the outfield while Brantley recovers from shoulder surgery. The Astros will play Triple-A Sugar Land on Monday and Tuesday, and Alvarez will have a few more opportunities to get a few more at-bats before the regular season. While Baker has expressed concerns about Alvarez’s progress, with each at-bat, it is becoming more certain that Alvarez will be a significant contributor to Houston’s offense this season.