Every morning throughout nearly the first two months of the baseball season, Jonathan Singleton was reminded of what he'd done when the alarm went off.
“It was a grind,” Singleton said. “Every day was a grind.”
Instead of starting the season at Double-A Corpus Christi or making his Triple-A debut in Oklahoma City, Singleton was exiled to extended spring training after being suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy a second time. Singleton has said he tested positive for marijuana.
Instead of playing night games and being able to sleep in, Singleton had to wake up at 6 a.m. every day to work out all morning before afternoon games mostly featuring low-level prospects and players coming back from injury.
Now, after serving the suspension and moving up from Class A to Double-A, Singleton is with the RedHawks, just one step from the majors.
Singleton and the RedHawks open a four-day, six-game homestand Saturday night against Omaha.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound first baseman is ranked by MLB.com as the Astros' No. 1 prospect. Baseball America has him listed as Houston's No. 2 prospect.
Either way, Singleton marks the leading edge of Houston's youth movement arriving in Oklahoma City with the RedHawks.
Through six games with the RedHawks, Singleton is hitting .217 with three doubles, all in his first two games. Singleton was 0 for 4 Friday night.
Moving up to Oklahoma City for the first time after spending all of last season in Corpus Christi has been an adjustment.
“The biggest thing is consistency,” Singleton said. “The higher you get, the more ballplayers get consistent and less mistakes are made throughout the game. But it's just exciting to be here. This is the last minor league stop.”
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow expects Singleton in Houston sooner rather than later.
“Why not?” Luhnow told MLB.com on the possibility of Singleton making his Astros debut by the end of the summer.
But Luhnow also expects some bumps in the road.
“I never assume someone is going to make that jump successfully out of the gate,” Luhnow said. “Ultimately he will, but he's got to demonstrate to us he can handle that environment and pitching before we move him up here.”
Singleton won't discuss the circumstances around his suspension — “I'm just really looking forward to moving forward,” he said.
But Astros officials said the way Singleton has conducted himself him since the punishment was announced has been exemplary.
“I made this perfectly clear to Jonathan when this whole situation came about,” Astros manager Bo Porter told the Houston Chronicle. “I told him, ‘Your baseball skill set is one thing. The talent level speaks for itself.' I said, ‘but you getting this here situation under control behind you and making better decisions moving forward is more about Jonathan the man than it is about Jonathan the baseball player.
“Because if we get Jonathan the man right, then we're going to get the baseball player, but if we don't get Jonathan the man right, we will never get the baseball player. To his credit he has gotten Jonathan the man right, and I think the baseball part of it will pretty much take care of itself.”
RedHawks hitting coach Leon Roberts got an up-close look at Singleton in instructional ball last winter and watched him some during spring training.
“I think he's got a good enough head on his shoulders and a good enough idea about hitting that he's going to be OK,” Roberts said. “For now, all he needs to do is get a bat in his hands, go up to home plate and act dangerous.”
He certainly looked dangerous during his first two games with the RedHawks.
In his third at-bat, Singleton roped a double to right. His next time up, he hit a laser to left field that nearly left the park for another double.
The next night, Singleton laced another double to left in his first at-bat.
“The kid has the potential to be an everyday starter for the Houston Astros, and I think eventually he's going to get the opportunity,” RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Right now, he's getting his feet wet here.”
Singleton is adjusting to Triple-A pitchers, who are more confident in their off-speed pitches and aren't as predictable as the pitchers Singleton saw in Corpus Christi.
“Once he can make that adjustment, he'll be fine,” DeFrancesco said. “It's just something he has to go through.”
After struggling when he initially arrived in Corpus Christi this season, Singleton relaxed and returned to the form that helped him hit .284 with 21 home runs last season
“The biggest thing is trying to stay relaxed and not do too much,” Singleton said. “Just calm my heartrate down and see the ball better and hopefully hit it hard. You don't want to be too amped up.”
Roberts was doing more observing than coaching when Singleton arrived late in the last homestand, but he was looking forward to working with the prospect.
“There's some pretty exceptional life in that swing,” Roberts said. “He's a young hitter with good life and a pretty good idea about hitting coming off a pretty good year. I'm excited about him.”