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Armenteros brings heat in spring opener

Davis sheds pounds to add versatility, goes deep
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- His reputation of being a strikeout machine showed early for Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros when he struck out the first two batters he faced in Friday's 3-2 win over the Nationals in the Grapefruit League opener at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

That set the tone for a crisp two-inning outing for Armenteros, who allowed one walk and struck out three batters without allowing a hit or a run.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- His reputation of being a strikeout machine showed early for Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros when he struck out the first two batters he faced in Friday's 3-2 win over the Nationals in the Grapefruit League opener at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

That set the tone for a crisp two-inning outing for Armenteros, who allowed one walk and struck out three batters without allowing a hit or a run.

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"I thought he did well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I can see how he gets his strikeouts. Obviously, it's his first time out. He came out and set a nice little tone and threw strikes. His changeup is really good. I always joke, 'You can't make the team on the first day,' but he tried to challenge that a little bit by punching everybody out. But it's fun."

Armenteros, 23, had arguably the best Minor League season among all Astros pitching prospects in 2017, posting a 10-4 record and a 2.04 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) between Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 1.93 ERA and was a Midseason All-Star in the Texas League. He struck out 146 over 123 2/3 innings across the two levels and enters this season as Houston's No. 12 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

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"I was very happy to be there and very thankful to A.J. Hinch to get the opportunity," he said.

Slimmed-down Davis gets off to fast start with homer

Considering Alex Bregman is the Astros' starting third baseman for the foreseeable future, J.D. Davis figured there was a chance he might get asked to play different positions this spring. Davis decided shedding a few pounds would help him if he had to play elsewhere, as well as making him more nimble around third base.

Video: WSH@HOU: Davis lifts a solo homer to left

Sure enough, Davis figures to get some reps in left field this spring, the one area in the Astros' lineup where there's no set starter. Derek Fisher is the favorite to get most of the time, but Marwin Gonzalez will continue to get at-bats there while also playing around the infield. Tony Kemp will play some left field as well.

Davis isn't a fish out of water when it comes to the outfield -- he played right field at Cal State Fullerton -- but learning left field will take some reps.

"It's a little bit different, but I planned for this," he said. "I dropped 15 pounds. I'm down to 222 and I plan to be more versatile this year and maybe play a little more outfield. And find a way to make it to the big leagues again and help the team out the best I can."

Davis played 25 games in his big league debut last year, hitting .226 with four homers and seven RBIs. He was the Double-A Player of the Year at Corpus Christi, hitting .279 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs. He smacked a home run in Friday's 3-2 win over Washington.

"My biggest weakness is my defense and I try to take pride in it every day and work hard every day, no matter if it's in the outfield or third base," he said.

Video: WSH@HOU: Stassi rips a two-run homer in the 3rd

Quote of the day: "We know two of his strengths are homering and framing pitches, and he did both very well today,"
-- Hinch, on catcher Max Stassi, who hit a homer in the third inning of the win over the Nationals

Up next: Right-hander Collin McHugh will get his first start of the spring when the Astros face the Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday on MLB.TV at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. McHugh, who went 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA last year in 12 starts, is battling for a spot in a stacked rotation.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

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