Whitley throws first bullpen session of spring

February 15th, 2019
Houston Astros pitcher Forrest Whitley throws during spring training baseball practice Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)Jeff Roberson/AP

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- All eyes were on right-hander Forrest Whitley, MLB Pipeline's top pitching prospect, when he threw in the bullpen for the first time Friday in Major League camp. Astros manager AJ Hinch, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman and director of player development Pete Putila were all watching intently as Whitley threw 21 pitches -- fastballs, changeups and cutters.

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"It was low intensity, so it's hard to get a feel for those ones," Whitley said. "I thought it was pretty good."

Whitley said his finger was sore from throwing a lot of breaking balls, which is why he didn't attempt any Friday. He's been working on his slider a lot but wanted to give it a rest. He was really enthused about his cutter.

"That pitch has been really good for me the last year," he said. "I'm really excited to see where that pitch ends up and see if I can locate that a little bit better this year."

Whitley, who has put on about 30 pounds from last spring, has been working on what he calls a "hip hinge" in his delivery in an effort to keep his posture straight driving down the mound. He previously had been slapping his back on his follow through but was making a concerted effort Friday not to do that.

"It's a very difficult mechanical adjustment to make, but I feel like I've definitely made some progress with it," Whitley said. "Is it 100 percent better? It's not. It's still going to be a lengthy process going into the season. Trying to find a happy medium between performance and mechanics. That might have to take a step back as far as my performance goes, but it's fine. It would be something I could focus on really going into next season, but also just kind of continue to focus on it this season, but pitching is the main thing I'm focused on."

Astros want versatility out of Diaz

Hinch said he would like veteran infielder , acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays in November, to play all four infield spots, as well as both corner-outfield spots this spring. Diaz is seen as the replacement for , who's a free agent.

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In his Major League career, Diaz has started 258 games at shortstop and 33 at third base. He's also had limited appearances at left field and second base, but the Astros stress versatility from all their players other than their catchers, second baseman and shortstop .

"We may not have enough time to do that as much as we want," Hinch said. "As funny as that sounds, it's a lot to ask out of one guy. I would like to move him around a little bit. He may see the least amount of time at shortstop given the makeup of our team. He's up for it and excited about it, and he knows that his best way to contribute and get in the lineup is to move around a little bit. And that versatility is key for me."

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Hinch said you have to prepare for the unexpected.

"I wouldn't anticipate Diaz playing a ton of innings in right, but if there's a collision in the outfield and something has to happen, I'd like him to at least have done it," he said.

Osuna adding another pitch?

Astros closer is tinkering with a sinker he learned from former Blue Jays teammate . Osuna already has a vast arsenal for a closer, featuring a fastball, cutter, slider and changeup, so adding a sinker could make him even more dominant.

"That's a pitch I was working on in the offseason, and I'm looking forward to keep working on it," Osuna said. "Hopefully, it becomes a strong pitch for me."

Hinch said what separates Osuna from a lot of closers is he has a good feel for pitching with multiple pitches. He's a complete pitcher and is now looking to add yet another option.

"He'll be able to execute it," Hinch said. "What's different about him from a lot of other backend relievers is he'll be able to execute it if he finds a feel for it, and if that's the case, it's another weapon for him."