Villar wants to run with everyday opportunity

Villar wants to run with everyday opportunity
July 23, 2013, 5:45 pm
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STL: Villar's debut means what for Astros?

(USA Today Images)

Jonathan Villar said he wasn’t nervous for his big league debut on Monday.

The 22-year-old infielder, who was called up following Sunday’s loss, wasn’t just with the Astros on Monday, he was playing shortstop and leading off.

And he wasn’t nervous.

“No. It’s the same game. Same game,” he said before pausing and allowing that there were some nerves. “Well, a little bit because a lot more fans.”

But if Villar was nervous, it certainly didn’t show on Monday. He got his first MLB hit on an infield bunt single, stole a base and scored a run. And he’ll get a chance to do more of that going forward. He’s back at short and leadoff for Tuesday night’s game.

“I’ve been working for this because I want to play here,” Villar said. “I want to do this for my family and everything. Now, this is my chance to be a regular player now.

“Yeah, (GM) Jeff Luhnow, he told me this is my opportunity to play in the big leagues and I want to take him up on the opportunity.”

Villar’s bunt single and stolen base are indicative of the kind of asset the Astros think he can be. All-Star catcher Jason Castro called Villar a “high-energy player” and compared him to centerfielder Brandon Barnes in that regard. Barnes, of course, has become the team’s everyday centerfielder.

“One of those guys that keeps the other team on their toes,” Castro said, “kind of a distracting presence on the base paths and he’s gonna play solid defense.”

Villar seemed excited about being reunited with and playing behind Jarred Cosart, who will be making his second career start. Villar and Cosart have played together quite a bit; both were traded to the Astros from the Phillies one year apart and have played throughout their minor league runs together. Villar predicted a win for Cosart on Tuesday.

The young Dominican shortstop said he’s thankful he was traded to the Astros because of how he’s been able to move his way through the system quickly. He was motivated to make it to the majors. “I like this team,” he said.

The Astros have tried several players in the leadoff role and haven't found much success. The combined average for the leadoff spot this season is .249 with 36 runs scored 12 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .315.

For now, Villar has been given the keys to shortstop and the leadoff spot. He'll have a chance to earn the job.

“If he can be in that leadoff spot and continue to provide that kind of spark he’s capable of that he showed this spring, that would be a huge anchor for us,” Castro said. “Anytime you can get a solid leadoff man who’s not only capable of taking an extra base but stealing bases and messing with the other team, that’s huge.”