WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He made a name for himself as an international superstar while playing third base for the Cuban national team, and this season, Yuli Gurriel will get a chance to return more frequently to the left side of the diamond.Astros manager A.J. Hinch told Gurriel on
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- He made a name for himself as an international superstar while playing third base for the Cuban national team, and this season, Yuli Gurriel will get a chance to return more frequently to the left side of the diamond.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch told Gurriel on Wednesday morning he plans to him play around the diamond a little bit more this year after starting 130 games at first base in 2017. Hinch said Gurriel's versatility needs to be utilized, so he plans to play him at third, second and shortstop, though he remains the starter at first base.
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"When I get greedy, I want to have every option available," Hinch said. "If we want to make a decision, I want to feel prepared they're to be fine. Anybody I put at second base, I don't intend to play at second base [full-time] other than [Jose Altuve], but you have to be ready for everything if you want to be able to react to any situation."
Gurriel said he was on board with the decision.
"I love it," he said. "I'm super excited. I love playing more than one position and I love all positions in the infield, so I'm excited."
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With the exception of catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros are big on versatility. Marwin Gonzalez is perhaps the most versatile player in baseball, playing 134 games last year, but not more than 47 at any one spot.
Third baseman Alex Bregman, who was a shortstop in college, can play both positions, and Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick can play anywhere in the outfield. Tyler White and Tony Kemp, who are battling for the final spot on the 25-man roster, can also play multiple positions.
"I love to have every option available, and obviously we have to train for that," Hinch said. "There's different makeups of the roster that would ask for different things. What if there's an injury? What if there's a promotion of an A.J. Reed or J.D. Davis or Tyler White that's pushing around the infield a little bit? What if I want to give guys days off a little more this season? …
"You never know what scenario is going to come up when you need somebody, and I'd rather them be comfortable and be prepared than not."
Gurriel, who will be suspended for the first five regular-season games this year following the insensitive gesture he directed toward then-Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in the World Series, had a bang-up rookie season as a 33-year-old. He hit .299 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs.
"His bat-to-ball is really good," Hinch said. "Any day you need contact, you should have Yuli up to bat. He is going to put the ball in play, and usually it's going to be pretty hard."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.