Gattis could see time at catcher soon

April 17th, 2016

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday that Evan Gattis could get some time behind the plate for the first time this season in the next week to 10 days. Gattis, who was activated from the disabled list a week ago following offseason hernia surgery, has been doing daily catching drills.

Gattis hasn't caught in a big league game since Sept. 28, 2014 -- his last game as a member of the Braves before being traded to the Astros that offseason. He served primarily as the designated hitter and played some in the outfield last year with Houston, but Hinch wants to increase roster versatility by getting Gattis back behind the plate.

"The next step is to get him in some games," Hinch said. "The only uncomfortable part for me is having him do it at the Major League level, having not done it for a year. I would have loved to have had Spring Training to get through the shaking off the rust, but he's equipped to do it, he's done it before. It's not as big of a story as maybe we're making it. To get him in the rotation behind the plate and give [starter Jason] Castro a day off, and whether I choose to play him or [backup Erik] Kratz is something I'll probably talk more about the next homestand."

When asked if he could envision a scenario where Castro and Gattis are the only catchers on the roster, Hinch said it depends on how the roster shakes out.

"I'm very comfortable with Kratz behind the plate," Hinch said. "He's got a really good arm, he works with pitchers well and he receives well. It's nothing to take away from him; it's just a continual grind for me to try to find playing time for the guys and keep the rhythm and get these guys starts."

Worth noting

Right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who had his scheduled rehab start at Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday scratched because of continual discomfort in his right shoulder, played catch Sunday morning in Houston without incident, Hinch said. That will allow him to increase his throwing program in the next day or so.

"The good news is it's only a couple of days past his start, so we don't have to start over [with his rehab program]," Hinch said. "He can jump right back into bullpens and hopefully get out to a rehab start. The first test of feeling good and throwing with no residual effect is a good sign."