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Gurriel injury creates competition for first base

Davis, Reed, White leading contenders for job with starter out until mid-April
Special to MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The 2018 Opening Day roster for the Astros looked fairly certain at the beginning of Spring Training.

But now that first baseman Yuli Gurriel will be out until mid-April due to hand surgery, Houston has a battle for playing time at first base and an extra slot on the bench while Gurriel recovers. Manager A.J. Hinch has numerous candidates auditioning, most of them capable of fielding multiple positions. Five such players started Thursday in the Astros' 6-4 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium, representing the bottom of the order.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The 2018 Opening Day roster for the Astros looked fairly certain at the beginning of Spring Training.

But now that first baseman Yuli Gurriel will be out until mid-April due to hand surgery, Houston has a battle for playing time at first base and an extra slot on the bench while Gurriel recovers. Manager A.J. Hinch has numerous candidates auditioning, most of them capable of fielding multiple positions. Five such players started Thursday in the Astros' 6-4 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium, representing the bottom of the order.

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Video: HOU@ATL: Astros hit two home runs against the Braves

"I think the next layer of guys can really hit," Hinch said. "We've got a good, deep team. We've got some guys behind them that are fighting for some playing time so they can get an opportunity like this."

Batting highest among them was J.D. Davis, whose hot Spring Training start could evolve into a crack at the Opening Day roster. But his performance turned while hitting in the fifth spot Friday as the left fielder: He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. But Hinch said his inexperience -- only 40 games combined beyond Double-A -- would not factor into a decision on Davis or any other player fighting for this spot.

Video: HOU@STL: Davis makes a nice diving grab in the 7th

"They've all played in the big leagues, so this level won't scare them," Hinch said. "They know what's in front of them. We got a few more weeks to decide what to do."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Davis entered play Thursday 10-for-22 with two home runs, the only hitter among these candidates with an average better than .300. Tyler White, 5-for-19, batted sixth and manned second base before moving to first; A.J. Reed, 8-for-28 with two homers, hit seventh and started at first.

While Davis had a tough day at the plate Thursday, White went 2-for-3 with a towering homer off the scoreboard in left-center field, a double and a walk. Reed went 2-for-3 with a double.

"Obviously, Whitey had a good day today; Davis has had good days; Reed's swinging the bat better," Hinch said. "Those three guys, in particular, are fighting for the job."

Video: HOU@WSH: Reed hits two-run HR to extend Astros' lead

Because each of these players has limited Major League experience and fields positions other than first base -- except Reed -- Hinch could decide to start super utility man Marwin Gonzalez at first for the opening weeks of this season. Hinch also could work a rotation among the infielders if they can catch fire at the end of March and into April.

Zak Kerr is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros, J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed, Tyler White