Alex De Goti already had a plan.
A quick sample of competition at the major-league level during spring training only reinforced the determination of the Quad-Cities River Bandits’ infielder to see that plan through.
“To get that chance was pretty amazing,’’ De Goti said. “I tried to soak it up, learn everything I could. Now, it’s motivation.’’
De Goti was among a handful of Astros’ minor-league players who had a chance to play in major-league exhibition games last month, called up from Houston’s minor-league camp to provide depth and get a feel for the game at the big-league level.
He had that opportunity twice, including playing second base and going 0-for-2 at the plate after taking over for Jose Altuve for Houston in a 7-3 victory over Miami on March 28.
“For the guys who get the chance to go up for a game or two, it’s always a great experience,’’ Quad-Cities manager Russ Steinhorn said. “Just to go up and watch how the players at that level prepare for a game and go about things during a game is such a valuable opportunity.’’
De Goti, selected by the Astros in the 15th round of the 2016 draft, found that to be reality.
“The entire spring was a chance for me to learn, to get to know everybody in the system and to have a chance to go up for a couple big league games was great,’’ De Goti said. “To have a chance to talk with Altuve was good. I asked plenty of questions and tried to soak up as much as I could.’’
Four days later, De Goti left the Astros’ new spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Florida, for the Quad-Cities.
He is off to a solid start for the River Bandits, second on the team with a .328 batting average and currently ranks third in the Midwest League with 13 walks in his first 80 plate appearances.
De Goti gave himself an opportunity to make that happen after reaching a career-changing decision two years.
The Miami native played his first three seasons of baseball at Long Beach State, filling a reserve role but wanting more.
“I knew that if I wanted to have any chance to play pro ball, I had to find a place where I could play every day,’’ De Goti said. “I have to find an opportunity or it wasn’t going to happen for me. It was a decision I had to make for my career.’’
That led him home to Barry, an NCAA Division II program in South Florida which provided De Goti with an opportunity to play in all 49 of the team’s games last year. He hit .404 and earned Division II all-American honors, catching the attention of Astros senior scouting advisor Charlie Gonzalez.
“All it takes is one set of eyes and I was fortunate that Charlie Gonzalez liked what he saw in me,’’ De Goti said. “That gave me the chance to play pro ball.’’
De Goti spent 2016 at short-season Tri-City, batting .228 in 63 games, but more importantly adjusting to the pro game.
“I left there understanding what I needed to do,’’ De Goti said. “It wasn’t 140 games like this level, but it was 76 in 80 days and that experience taught me a lot about my body and how I needed to take care of it, from my diet to rest to strength, all of the things that go into being ready to compete at the highest level.’’
That work continued into the offseason, when he trained under the guidance of Barry pitching coach Alex Gonzalez, whose experience in sports performance training helped De Goti improve his strength, speed and mobility.
“I’ve learned to make moves that I couldn’t make before. It was extremely beneficial and it’s helping me compete now,’’ De Goti said. “I’m coming to the ballpark ready to work and ready to improve every day. That’s the goal.’’
Steinhorn sees that as well.
“He’s learned to take care of himself and he does what he needs to do to be prepared each day,’’ Steinhorn said. “He’s been consistent on the field for us, but equally important, he’s become a leader in our clubhouse with the way the way he handles himself. On and off the field, he has a very professional approach and that shows in his performance.’’