WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Still on track to return to the Astros in mid-to-late April, first baseman Yuli Gurriel is beginning to partake in infield drills as he recovers from a left hand injury.Gurriel, who underwent surgery at the beginning of March to remove the hook of the hamate
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Still on track to return to the Astros in mid-to-late April, first baseman Yuli Gurriel is beginning to partake in infield drills as he recovers from a left hand injury.
Gurriel, who underwent surgery at the beginning of March to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, will put "a glove on" and start to do some defensive work with infield coach Joe Espada, manager A.J. Hinch said.
Speaking prior to the club's 12-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday, the Astros' skipper said Gurriel is going to take it slow.
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"He's starting to do a little bit more," Hinch said. "He's just starting the beginning stages of light ground balls. ... It's just a matter of keeping the swelling out of his hand and building his hand strength back up. He's not close to hitting, but he'll put a glove on his hand and start to do some defensive stuff."
The Astros have no plans yet to let the 33-year-old Gurriel swing a bat. Hinch says that will be the final step in the rehab process.
"It'll be the last thing," Hinch said. "It'll be the most uncomfortable, based on how guys hit nowadays. They hit off the knob, so that pressure is applied on every swing."
Gurriel was a key piece of Houston's World Series championship puzzle, serving as its full-time first baseman while hitting .299/.332/.486 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs in 139 games. He hit three doubles and two home runs during the Fall Classic, helping the Astros win their first title in franchise history.
The defending champs would certainly love to have Gurriel back as soon as possible, but the Astros don't want to put him on a timeline before he increases the intensity of his workouts.
"He hasn't done enough for us to make a definitive timetable, but I think most of us are under the assumption he will return sometime in April," Hinch said.
Once Gurriel is ready to return, he will serve a five-game suspension for an insensitive gesture made during the World Series. A.J. Reed, Tyler White and J.D. Davis are trying to play their way to a starting role at first base with Gurriel out.
Rondon dominant in return
Veteran reliever Hector Rondon made his return to the mound from what the team described as "fatigue" on Thursday, striking out the side in order. Signed to a two-year contract on Dec. 15, Rondon has not pitched since Feb. 26, when he allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Mets.
The 30-year-old hurler looked to have pinpoint command of both his fastball and slider, inducing whiffs on all three of his punchouts.
"I know my first outing [of Spring Training] was a struggle so I tried to step back, work on my strengths, put everything together and today I felt really good," Rondon said. "Today my arm felt loose. Hopefully I keep doing this and I'll be ready for the season."
Hinch said he was encouraged by what he saw from the right-hander.
"I wasn't really sure how sharp he would be, just given the layoff that he's had, but he was electrifying," Hinch said. "Obviously, three strikeouts. The velocity crept up there, he had a big smile on his face, so it was nice to see him out there and have some success."
Right-hander Lance McCullers takes on the Yankees and southpaw Jordan Montgomery in a 5:35 p.m. CT game at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Friday. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.
Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.