WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The loss of Yuli Gurriel likely for the first two weeks of the season because of a hand injury and a five-game suspension makes the month of March a competition at first base between J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed and Tyler White.Each brings a different track
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The loss of Yuli Gurriel likely for the first two weeks of the season because of a hand injury and a five-game suspension makes the month of March a competition at first base between J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed and Tyler White.
Each brings a different track record and set of tools to the table, and it will ultimately come down to on-field performance in Grapefruit League games to determine which of the three makes the Astros' Opening Day roster.
Gurriel, who started 130 games at first base for the Astros last year, had surgery on Wednesday in Houston to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand. That injury will sideline him for about six weeks, and then he'll serve a five-game suspension handed down in October for making an insensitive gesture toward then-Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish in the World Series.
"We've got a little more of an opportunity now even at the beginning of camp," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We knew someone was going to make our team based on Yuli's situation and when he got injured, it's going to create a little more opportunity. If you outperform the other guys, it's going to help."
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Reed brings impressive left-handed power. He spent the majority of last season at Triple-A Fresno, and he hit .261 with 34 homers and 104 RBIs. He was hitless in six at-bats in a brief stint in Houston and wasn't called up in September, which was a source of frustration.
"We've told him before, 'We don't want you to become a DH only this early in your career,'" Hinch said. "He took it upon himself to work this winter and trim himself down a little bit, and he's looked good, physically, and now he's getting into baseball rhythm and baseball timing and he'll get a lot of playing now that first base is open."
Reed dropped 25 pounds this offseason -- now weighing in at 255 -- in order to be nimbler around the base. As a result, he said his hands feel quicker, too.
"It's a big year," Reed said. "Just try and play as well as I can and take advantage of the opportunity. With this team, there's not very many of those. You have to take advantage of it while you have it."
White, who beat out Reed for an Opening Day nod in 2016, hit .279 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 22 games with the Astros last year, while hitting .300 with 25 homers and 89 RBIs at Fresno. He can play first base, third base and second base, which is a plus.
"I come in expecting to make the roster and give myself a good opportunity," White said. "That's all you can do. You try not to really worry about stuff like that. Just play my game and play as good as I can and try to get my at-bats and get myself ready for the season, no matter where I'll be."
Like Reed, Davis dropped weight this winter (15 pounds) after being named the team's Most Valuable Player at Double-A Corpus Christi last year, hitting .279 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs in 87 games. He showed some power in his brief stint in Houston, hitting four homers in 24 games. He'll play some left field this spring, too, in addition to first and third.
"If I'm a player and I'm on the cusp of making to the big leagues or establish myself, if I can be the answer if at-bats open up, then all the better," Hinch said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.