LEADING OFF: Aching Correa trying to get back ready for ALCS

A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:

BACK AT IT

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is trying to get his aching back as healed as possible before Houston’s AL Championship Series opener Saturday. Correa told The Associated Press on Wednesday that although he’s tried to put on a brave face, his back is hurting him on every swing and miss, and on the bad days it can even be uncomfortable to walk. Correa returned from a six-week stint on the DL on Aug. 10 and declared he was better, but he hit just .180 in the second half of the season and had just one hit — a homer — while Houston swept Cleveland in their three-game AL Division Series.

“Not only to find my swing, just to feel comfortable at the plate when I swing,” he said. “Because I know every time I swing and miss it’s going to hurt. So, I try not to swing and miss and then I try to baby my swing and I don’t swing as hard as I usually do or as quick as I usually do. So, it’s definitely been tough.”

STURDY DEFENSE

Indians manager Terry Francona is still feeling a “sting” from Cleveland’s early postseason exit, but he’s not letting the blame fall on one of his biggest stars. Francona got defensive Wednesday when pressed about Jose Ramirez’s struggles. Ramirez went hitless in 11 at-bats during an AL Division Series sweep, continuing a slide that began in mid-August and cost the All-Star any chance of being named MVP.

Francona stiffened when a reporter said Ramirez “killed” the Indians.

“What do you mean it killed us? ” Francona snapped. “We won the division by 15 games.

“He got himself into a predicament and he couldn’t get himself out of it,” he added. “It’s hard to figure out because a guy can be that good, that dominant and then he just couldn’t get … he kept peeling off balls even when he got pitches to hit. He kind of peeled off and he knew it and he watched video and he just couldn’t get the feeling of staying through the ball.”

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals aren’t waiting for the World Series to end to get going on their 2019 roster. Washington acquired reliever Kyle Barraclough from Miami on Wednesday, its first offseason move to rebuild its bullpen. Barraclough went 1-6 with 4.20 ERA and 10 saves in 17 chances during 61 appearances this year. He allowed one hit in 36 at-bats in June, when he was chosen NL reliever of the month, but struggled with his command the rest of the season.

Washington sent the Marlins $1 million in international slot allotment as part of the deal. Miami may use the space to acquire 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, who worked out at Marlins Park for big league scouts last week.

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