WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Kemp got married in Jamaica in the offseason and purchased his first house in Nashville, Tenn. He watched Game 7 of the World Series nervously from his in-laws' house, cheering for his teammates and refusing to draw an easy breath until the final out
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Kemp got married in Jamaica in the offseason and purchased his first house in Nashville, Tenn. He watched Game 7 of the World Series nervously from his in-laws' house, cheering for his teammates and refusing to draw an easy breath until the final out was made.
As good as life has been for Kemp in the past few months, a spot on the Astros' Opening Day roster would make for a storybook existence for the 26-year-old Vanderbilt graduate.
Kemp, a left-handed-hitting outfielder/infielder, is in Astros camp competing with a handful of other players, including his close friend and groomsman, A.J. Reed, for the final spot on the World Series champions' 25-man roster. Kemp appeared in 17 games with the Astros in two stints in the big leagues in 2017, but he wasn't on Houston's postseason roster.
"This was probably the best offseason I've ever had," Kemp said. "The offseason went by so fast, but it was good. I worked on a lot of things. I'm happy to be here right now and excited to get going."
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In addition to Reed, Kemp is battling Derek Fisher, Tyler White and Max Stassi for a roster spot. Kemp helped his cause Saturday by making a pair of nice defensive plays in a 6-1 win over the Braves, including a high-flying, tumbling catch in left to end the seventh inning. He went 0-for-3.
"Tony Kemp did play well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, he can move around the field a little bit and do some things. He's athletic. You can put him in a couple different spots. I put him in center and left today. He's obviously trying to make an impression. He's going to get some at-bats really early to see if he can factor in."
Kemp's resume includes a .310 career batting average in 514 Minor Leagues games, including an impressive season last year at Triple-A Fresno, in which he hit .329 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs with a .375 on-base percentage. An infielder by trade, he's played the outfield more frequently in recent years to add to his toolbox.
Kemp's versatility -- and his ability to hit -- will be a key for him to make the club. He can play second base, left field and center field, where he started Saturday against the Braves. And Kemp typically brings an infectious smile and energy to the clubhouse.
"You just have to come to the field with a positive attitude each day," Kemp said. "At the end of the day, you're going to look at yourself and say, 'Did I do the best I could?' If you did, then you can sleep better at night."
When Hinch addressed the club when camp started, he told the players it was going to be difficult to make a team that had so many key pieces returning. Kemp knew that already. In the offseason, he threw batting practice and played long toss while working out with some fellow big leaguers at Vandy, and he says he's increased his arm strength, which was a weakness.
"It was one of those things -- I wanted to come into camp and make sure my arm was feeling good to be at second and play all the outfield positions, and strengthening my arm was one of the keys in the offseason," Kemp said.
Getting a chance for consistent at-bats in the big leagues could be all that Kemp needs.
"There's a chance he is the puzzle piece we're looking for at the end of the spring," Hinch said. "The better he plays, the more eyes he'll open."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.