The idea of a rehab assignment with an injured player is pretty simple. Put him at a lower level for a couple games when he's healthy again, just to get one last reassurance all is well before putting him back at the appropriate level.
For the past couple of weeks, that's what the Astros have done with Jonathan Singleton, more or less. Only instead of an injury he returned from a 50-game suspension incurred for testing positive for a drug of abuse.
And over those two weeks, he's left little doubt that the time off hasn't slowed his progress.
The top Houston prospect homered twice Thursday, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two walks as Double-A Corpus Christi beat Frisco, 7-1.
It was his ninth game with the Hooks as he marches toward Triple-A Oklahoma City. He's hit .313/.410/.625 in his brief stint in the Texas League after batting .286/.400/.810 in six games with Class A Quad Cities when he first returned.
Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow told MLB.com on June 5 when Singleton moved from Quad Cities to Corpus Christi that Houston intended to see the first baseman move along quickly.
"At this point, the plan is he'll stay with Corpus Christi for a series or two and then he'll move up to Oklahoma City after that. We want him to get increasingly comfortable and then challenge him every step of the way," Lunhow said. "He showed us he was ready for the competition, so he's taking the next step.
"Maybe this will all end up with him in Houston this summer."
Right now, that doesn't seem like such an unreasonable trajectory. The 21-year-old posted a .284/.396/.497 line with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games for the Hooks.
Ranking him the No. 25 overall prospect in baseball this year, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo wrote before the season, "He appeared to be nearly ready to help out in Houston, perhaps after some Triple-A time, but that will have to wait after Singleton received a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Most believe that won't impact him on the field once he returns, assuming it doesn't become a recurring problem, and Singleton has some outstanding offensive tools."
So far, that's proved pretty much to be the case.
He admitted to MiLB.com before his first game of the year that he was a little nervous for the return, but he wound up going 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBIs in that game and hasn't stopped hitting since.
"I felt a little bit [nervous]. I tried to just relax and take a deep breath and go out there and play hard," Singleton said of his season debut. "I was pretty anxious. I actually didn't get too much sleep, but once I got to the ballpark today, I was calmed down a little bit. Once I got the uniform on, I was ready to go."
Erik Castro and Michael Burgess also delivered home runs for the Hooks.
No. 9 Astros prospect Nick Tropeano (2-4) yielded a run on five hits without any walks and three strikeouts over five innings to earn the victory. Tropeano has a 3.56 ERA in 65 2/3 innings this year. He has struck out 62 strikeouts and walked 20.