SEATTLE -- When the news broke Friday the Astros were going to sign 32-year-old Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, several players took to the internet to find out more about the unknown yet heralded player who was about to become their teammate.Houston introduced Gurriel at a news conference Saturday at Minute
SEATTLE -- When the news broke Friday the Astros were going to sign 32-year-old Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, several players took to the internet to find out more about the unknown yet heralded player who was about to become their teammate.
Houston introduced Gurriel at a news conference Saturday at Minute Maid Park, but his impact on the team's lineup still appears to be a few weeks away. Gurriel will have to get a work visa and then play in some games at Double-A Corpus Christi before joining the Astros, who are ready to welcome him with open arms.
"It's great," shortstop Carlos Correa said. "I mean, I've read about him and seen a couple of videos. He's obviously a great player, and it's a great addition for the team. We see they're trying to make the team better. I just want to make the playoffs, and it's always good to have guys like that."
Gurriel, who defected from Cuba in February, has big-time credentials, but is unproven in the States. A 6-foot, 190-pound infielder, he's posted impressive numbers in Cuba and while representing his country in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic, but he's raw defensively.
When he's ready to join the Astros, Gurriel will see time at third base -- with Luis Valbuena moving to first base on occasion -- and likely will see some action in left field, as well. He can also play second base, which would allow manager A.J. Hinch to use José Altuve at designated hitter more down the stretch and keep him fresh.
"He's been one of the best players, if not the best player, in Cuba for a long time," Hinch said. "His reputation in front of him is spectacular. He can do a lot of things on the field. He can move around -- he's very versatile. Everybody loves him with the bat in his hand, and to dominate the country the way that he did, a country that's full of talent, is pretty remarkable.
"The one challenge in his whole career he hasn't faced is Major League pitching on a consistent basis. I know he'll be working his way toward coming to help us. To add this kind of talent at a time in the season where you're always looking to boost your roster, boost your organization, I'm thrilled."
Altuve said he's heard great things about Gurriel and has seen highlights of him playing.
"If you want to win, you have to find a way and try to get your team better," he said. "Our team is already good. Everybody knows that, but this is baseball. ... Obviously, we signed Gurriel, and I hope he comes here and helps our team and takes us all the way to the World Series."
The arrival of Gurriel and top prospect Alex Bregman, who could also be joining the club soon, will mean a couple of players will lose their jobs and others will lose playing time. As far as Hinch is concerned, that's a good problem to have.
"I've always said, 'Give me too many good players, and I'll sort the playing time and all the issues that come with that,'" he said. "I've got guys that can move over to first, I've got the DH slot, there may be some conversation about left field for a variety of guys. What I've found in this league is if you have enough talent, if you have enough athleticism, we'll coach 'em up and try to make sure that we can get the best bats in the lineup that doesn't hurt our defense."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.