Bregman among 3 regulars slated to start Friday

Gattis, Marisnick also in line to play; Astros working on baserunning; McCann not taking BP

February 22nd, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- , Evan Gattis and will be the only regulars in the starting lineup for the Astros in Friday's 12:05 p.m. CT Grapefruit League opener against the Nats at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Bregman will play shortstop, Gattis will be the designated hitter and Marisnick will be in center field. The game will be available live on MLB.TV and MLB Network.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said and will play for the first time on Saturday against the Braves, will play on Sunday against the Cardinals and will make his spring debut Monday in one of the split-squad games.

Astros Spring Training information

"It's all over the map, based on how we want to map out the next five days," he said.

The Astros have a split-squad Monday -- against the Mets in West Palm Beach and the Marlins in Jupiter -- so everyone will get to play.

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"We're looking for volunteers to play a couple of positions in the second half of the game on Monday," Hinch joked.

Right-hander is scheduled to start Friday, with , Matt Ramsey, and among those scheduled to pitch as well. Tommy Milone will start for the Nationals, who will be the visiting team.

Baserunning fundamentals a key

One of the few areas Houston would like to improve next season is on the bases. The Astros ran into too many outs last year, which is partly a product of the club being aggressive and partly from having so many baserunners.

Still, Hinch said his players could improve their primary and secondary leads off the base and their overall baserunning fundamentals.

"We're a dangerous baserunning team, when it comes to how many athletes we have and how many extra bases we can take, and if you're into the numbers, we take as many bases as anyone," he said. "We also run into a few outs and that's a little bit of a give and take. Not every out you run into is misery, yet we love every time we can take extra base -- first to third, first to home or second to home, or the stolen bases.

"If we can put pressure on teams and alter the plan for the pitcher, it's advantage hitter. We've got a good hitter going up to bat every time. It's part of our culture and part of our strength. We just need to tighten it up a little bit."

McCann not taking BP

Veteran catcher won't face live pitching until he makes his Grapefruit League debut this weekend. McCann said Thursday he hasn't taken live batting practice (against his own team's pitchers) for about a decade, after getting plunked by a few pitches during live BP earlier in his career.

"I got hit back in the day and I haven't hit live BP in probably 10 years," said McCann, whose beard is graying. "We have so much time down here that you get plenty of at-bats, plenty of pitches. I'm not standing in there."

As he prepares to catch another full season at 34 years old, McCann says he's feels healthy.

"You use this time to get your body under you, get your legs going. A.J. does an amazing job with us and letting us into our schedules so we can get going -- not at our own pace, but you know what you need to do before your first game."