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Hoyt prepared, focused on Major League shot

Astros right-hander captures Hinch's attention with commanding presence
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- James Hoyt drew some praise Sunday from Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who said the 6-foot-6 right-hander was "intriguing." Hoyt, in his second big league camp, credits extra rest in the offseason with helping him be in top form as he competes for a bullpen spot.

Hoyt played in 19 games in the Venezuelan Winter League following last season, but he shut it down in December to take a month off from throwing. The previous year, he played the entire offseason in the Dominican (October to February) and admits it took its toll.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- James Hoyt drew some praise Sunday from Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who said the 6-foot-6 right-hander was "intriguing." Hoyt, in his second big league camp, credits extra rest in the offseason with helping him be in top form as he competes for a bullpen spot.

Hoyt played in 19 games in the Venezuelan Winter League following last season, but he shut it down in December to take a month off from throwing. The previous year, he played the entire offseason in the Dominican (October to February) and admits it took its toll.

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"I had a good camp last year," said Hoyt, who was acquired from the Braves on Jan. 14, 2015. "My stuff was there, but as far as velocity and strength, that was lacking. I was a little tired. I came straight from a 30-inning season from winter ball after a previous 60-or-something innings with the Braves. I was definitely fatigued. It was a little more mental fatigue. It's nice to be refreshed this year."

When Hoyt is at his best, he's a commanding presence whose fastball sits at 93-95 mph. He reached Triple-A for the first time last year, posting a 3.49 ERA with nine saves in 12 opportunities with Fresno. Hoyt suffered a lat injury lifting weights early last year and struggled through much of the first half before having a 1.56 ERA with 49 strikeouts and four walks in his final 33 outings.

"He's come into camp with really good form," Hinch said. "He's got a really good breaking ball, really good split. His arm strength is up. He's very intriguing with how he can impact a hitter."

Considering the success he had last year, Hoyt said he's ready for a shot at the big leagues. It could be tough to crack Houston's veteran bullpen, but if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, Hoyt should be one of the arms the club calls up if there's a need.

"Honestly, I'm ready," he said. "I felt going down to Venezuela and proving myself in a different country that was new to me, it's a lot of pressure to go to a new team -- especially a new country -- and to do well, and I handled it really well. After I went down there, it really clicked. I said, 'There's a lot of big league hitters down here. I'm ready to go.' I'm going to do everything I can here to show these guys I belong up there."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, James Hoyt