A boy in an Astros hat leaned over the Houston dugout at Citizens Bank Park during batting practice Tuesday night. He held out a sign as Jon Singleton, Houston's rookie first baseman and a onetime Phillies prospect, finished his swings.
The boy's poster listed in red ink the names of Singleton and the others players in the Astros system who were acquired in the Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies in 2011.
In black marker, he added: "Thanks, Ruben."
As the Phillies look to launch their own rebuilding project, the Astros' process is in full swing, thanks in no small part to the Pence trade orchestrated by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Singleton, 22, started at first base and batted fifth for the Astros on Tuesday. Domingo Santana, an outfielder sent to the Astros as the player to be named later in the deal, joined the club Sunday from triple A. Jarred Cosart, whom the Phillies included in the package, was flipped to Miami as part of a trade for Tuesday's centerfielder, Jake Marisnick, and third-base prospect Colin Moran.
Singleton is an important part of an Astros future built around their promising young players. It has not yet translated to wins, but unlike the Phillies, who remain tied to their veterans, the blueprint is clear.
"It's exciting to be a part of," Singleton said. "I've been going out there and just soaking up every minute of it."
Singleton has plenty of reasons to feel at ease these days. His future is secure thanks to a five-year, $10 million contract he signed when the Astros called him up in June. He spoke openly in spring training about his recovery from the marijuana and alcohol issues that led to a 50-game suspension last season. And lately, he has been hitting.
Singleton came into Tuesday's game hitting .318 with three home runs and six RBIs in his last seven games. Over the weekend, he went three straight games without a strikeout, a feat worth noting after having one in every game in July.
The hot streak pulled his season average up to .198 heading into Tuesday. He has 10 home runs, the most by an Astros rookie first baseman since Jeff Bagwell had 14 in 1991.
"I feel like it kind of comes and goes, to be honest," Singleton said. "I feel like some days you feel like you've got it. You feel like you're doing really well, and other days, it's kind of like it's slipping away. Every day is a work in progress."
Singleton, whose path to the majors with the Phillies was blocked by Ryan Howard, said he does not rue his lack of opportunity with the then-loaded Phillies.
"I feel like it happens with a lot of organizations. It comes and goes with older guys and younger guys," Singleton said. "That's just part of the system."
Singleton was 1 for 5 with an RBI single in Tuesday's game, won by the Phillies, 2-1, in 15 innings.