Hinch likes Fisher's 'aggressiveness' at plate

Astros send six to Minors; James may resume throwing soon

March 6th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The early results at the plate have been positive for outfielder Derek Fisher, who's trying to be more aggressive this year. Fisher was 5-for-17 with four walks, a pair of homers and a double entering Wednesday's game against the Marlins.

Fisher has appeared in 95 games in each of the past two seasons with the Astros, but he has yet to have the kind of sustained success he's produced at Triple-A. He has nine homers in 225 big league at-bats, but he has also struck out 96 times, which is partially a result of falling behind in the count and watching pitches. Fisher is likely to start the season in the outfield at Triple-A Round Rock.

"You know what I like about Fish is he's dialed up the aggressiveness early in counts and he's not in take mode," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He takes a lot of pitches and a lot of them are borderline pitches. ... there's a fine line between borderline aggressiveness and the right kind of aggressiveness. I like that he's ready to hit from the beginning of the at-bat as opposed to finding himself in bad counts."

Fisher entered 2017 as the team's No. 5-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline and made his debut that season. He was on the playoff roster because of his speed and scored the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series on Alex Bregman's walk-off hit. Last year, Fisher hit .251 with 10 homers, 34 RBIs and 11 steals at Triple-A Fresno.

While the early results are nice, Fisher said he's simply been trusting the work in the batting cage and has been closely watching veteran Michael Brantley, another left-handed hitter who's one of the steadiest players in the game.

"He's just very methodical in what he does," Fisher said. "There's a reason why he's been around for so long and as good of a hitter as he is. I feel like there's a lot of things I can take from him. Just watching what he does in the cage, very methodical and very simple."

First cuts

The Astros made their first cuts of spring camp Wednesday morning, reassigning right-handed pitchers Jose Hernandez and Erasmo Pinales, left-hander Ryan Hartman, catcher Lorenzo Quintana and optioning right-handers Brady Rodgers and Francis Martes to Minor League camp.

"Minor League camp opened and that usually signals the beginning of thinning our room out," Hinch said. "We'll kind of systematically start to thin the room out as Minor League camp gets under way. Those conversations, albeit easier at the beginning of camp than toward the end of camp, are never fun on either side, but very necessary."

Rodgers and Martes, both of whom are on the 40-man roster, are coming off Tommy John surgery. Rodgers came back last year and pitched in 13 games in the Minor Leagues, but Martes is still recovering and won't pitch in a game until later in the season.

"Brady Rodgers wanted to be in the competition a little bit more and was obviously disappointed," Hinch said. "The level of disappointment will be more and more as we get later in camp."

Considering the Astros know who will fill 24 of their 25 spots on the Opening Day roster -- the lone question mark is fifth starter, which will have an impact on the final bullpen spot -- none of the cuts in the coming weeks should come with much drama.

"If we stay healthy, we'll be talking about one spot, and even the rotation could dictate that in its own right," Hinch said. "There's a number of guys, more so later in the camp, that we're going to send down that deserve an opening in the big leagues."

Worth noting

Hinch said right-handed pitcher Josh James, who strained his right quad last week, was scheduled to run on an agility field Wednesday. That would be his final step to getting on the mound and resuming his throwing program.

Up next

Justin Verlander, Houston's likely Opening Day pitcher, makes his third start of Grapefruit League when the Astros face the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT Thursday in Jupiter. Hector Rondon and Ryan Pressly are also scheduled to throw.