WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Less than three weeks after undergoing surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has progressed to the point where he's fielding grounders, running the bases and even doing some light hitting.
Astros manager AJ Hinch said Gurriel worked out Tuesday at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- an off-day for the team -- and is progressing nicely. The initial prognosis for Gurriel was that he would be out 5-6 weeks following the surgery.
It's still expected that Gurriel will start the season on the disabled list, where he would have to remain for at least 10 days before serving a five-game suspension handed down for making an insensitive gesture in the World Series last year.
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Hinch said Gurriel would remain in West Palm Beach when the Astros break camp on Sunday night so he can play in Minor League games on the backfields. It's not known where Gurriel would be to start the season -- present with the big league club while inactive or playing in games in Florida.
Gurriel, who was signed out of Cuba and made his big league debut in 2016, hit .299 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs and recorded the final out of the World Series last year. He started 130 games at first base for the Astros in '17 in his first full season in the big leagues, and Hinch said early in camp he planned to play Gurriel at other infield positions.
Reddick brings the lumber in win
Astros outfielder Josh Reddick pretty much erased any doubt he could hit lefties last year when he batted .315 against southpaws, which was a huge improvement over the career .218 batting average he had against lefties entering 2017. Going 3-for-3 -- including a homer and triple against Nats lefty Giovany Gonzalez in Wednesday's 8-3 win over the Nationals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- certainly did nothing to dampen Reddick's confidence.
Reddick called his three at-bats on Wednesday an eye-opener, saying he hasn't been able to put backspin on a ball the entire spring. He crushed a Gonzalez breaking pitch in the fourth inning for a long two-run homer to right after hitting a two-run triple in the first. He later had a single against lefty Enny Romero.
"Extra-base hits have been a struggle for me," said Reddick, who had two doubles and no homers this spring prior to Wednesday. "I was kind of worrying about it, kind of not, just trying to let it ride, let it ride, but today was a good step forward."
Reddick admitted he's been ready for Spring Training to be over for about two weeks, and having a big day at the plate likely only makes him more anxious.
"I've been hitting the ball well this spring so I was ready to get out of here a little bit a while ago, but days like today make me more confident against lefties," Reddick said. "It just makes it a little bit better when people say you can't do it and you go out there and show them up on days like today. Just got to continue to do it good."
Hoyt day to day
A minor oblique injury that could keep right-handed reliever James Hoyt from pitching in a game in the final few days of spring camp likely brings the Astros' bullpen composition into full focus.
Hoyt and left-hander Tony Sipp were battling for the eighth and final bullpen slot, and Hinch said Wednesday that Hoyt had come down with soreness in the oblique. He said he's not sure if Hoyt will throw again in Grapefruit League play, but said he was day to day.
"He's not completely shut down or anything like that," Hinch said.
The injury to Hoyt -- the first involving an Astros pitcher that's been publicly revealed this spring -- likely means Sipp will make the team as the lone lefty in the bullpen. The veteran has allowed five earned runs and nine hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings this spring.
"In that regard, it's sort of solving itself with the bullpen," Hinch said.
Every player that's remaining in camp will return with the team to Houston for next week's exhibition games against the Brewers, with the exception of Gurriel.
The battle for the starting first-base job in Gurriel's absence will come down to the wire. Entering play Wednesday, Tyler White was hitting .242 with a .378 on-base percentage with two homers and eight RBIs. J.D. Davis was hitting .349 with a .391 on-base percentage with three homers and five RBIs.
"It's a good debate," Hinch said. "You can go one way or another and I think we're simply going to have to choose at some point. They both bring strengths. Whitey's at-bats are always high quality and Davis brings some power and the ability to move around the field to the outfield. Whitey is the most experienced of the two, so again it's 1A and 1B. It's not like one is separating themselves from the other, so eventually we'll have to make a decision."
Odds and ends
• Left-hander Dallas Keuchel threw close to 90 pitches in a simulated game on the backfields on Tuesday. His final spring start will come Sunday against the Marlins in Houston's Grapefruit League finale.
• The Astros play a late-spring split-squad game Friday, facing the Twins at 12:05 p.m. CT in Fort Myers, Fla., and the Nationals at 5:05 p.m. in West Palm Beach. Hinch and several players making the trip to Fort Myers will stay overnight in the area Friday because the Astros play in Fort Myers again on Saturday against the Red Sox.
Charlie Morton makes his final start in Grapefruit League action when the Astros face the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Thursday at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, live on Gameday Audio. Morton has allowed eight hits and one earned run in 9 2/3 innings across three starts this spring. Reliever Joe Smith is scheduled to throw the first of two back-to-back outings, and closer Ken Giles will throw the second of his back-to-back outings.