PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- On the morning of his spring debut Saturday, Alex Bregman woke up early because of a nightmare about being hit by a pitch.
Hours later, as Houston's third baseman prepared to take the field against the New York Mets following his recovery from surgery on his right elbow, he was still thinking about his dream. He asked a teammate to borrow a guard to cover his other elbow.
The move proved fortuitous: On his third and final plate appearance, Bregman was plunked by Jeurys Familia on the protected elbow. Infield prospect Alex De Goti, who provided the guard, became Bregman's hero.
"De Goti saved my life today or else I would have been on the shelf for a minute with the other elbow," Bregman said laughing.
Bregman was limited early this spring after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in January. He said after the game that both elbows were OK, but that the surgically repaired one felt better than the other, which was bruised from the pitch.
"I'm fine," he said. "Other elbow's good. This one is sore."
He walked on his first two plate appearances. Bregman started at third base but didn't see any action on the field with Justin Verlander giving up just two hits in three innings.
"I got to throw the ball across in between innings," Bregman said.
Though Bregman declared his right elbow 100 percent, the 2018 All-Star Game MVP said he'll need a few more games this spring before he's where he wants to be.
"I've got a lot of work to do to get ready for the season, but I've got plenty of time," he said.
Jose Altuve played second base for the first time this spring after serving as the designated hitter in his first two games. He is coming off surgery to repair a fractured kneecap.
The 2017 American League MVP doesn't have a hit yet but walked twice in three plate appearances Saturday.
"I feel better than what I thought," he said. "I'm really happy. I feel good. I feel like I'm where I want to be right now."
Manager AJ Hinch was glad to see two of his stars back on the field and was encouraged by their work.
"Good, productive day," Hinch said. "Just seeing them on the field together is nice. I like when our good guys play."
Verlander allowed a home run to Michael Conforto with one out in the first and a single to Wilson Ramos with two outs in the inning of what was an 8-7 win by Houston. Hinch was impressed with Verlander's changeup.
"He's got a new weapon that he's developing some confidence in," he said. "He's using it against righties and lefties. It's something he's committed to for the spring and I think he's testing himself a little bit."