FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch made it official on Friday, saying that he has told catcher Max Stassi he will be on the Opening Day roster. Hinch has said all spring the Astros would likely carry three catchers, and Stassi will serve as the primary backup for
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch made it official on Friday, saying that he has told catcher Max Stassi he will be on the Opening Day roster. Hinch has said all spring the Astros would likely carry three catchers, and Stassi will serve as the primary backup for Brian McCann.
Hinch said Stassi would catch more than veteran Evan Gattis, who would fill in as a third catcher and be the primary designated hitter. Gattis has caught very few games this spring, and there have been concerns about his ability to throw.
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"[Stassi] was very consistent behind the plate," Hinch said. "I liked how our pitchers developed a rapport with him very quickly and a number of guys commented on how comfortable they were throwing to him. His receiving has gotten a lot better over the last couple of years. I think he's embraced the [pitch-framing] fundamentals and has done a good job getting better in that area."
Hinch said Stassi has thrown better in drills this spring and his overall game behind the plate has taken a step forward. Houston's manager said Stassi will catch one of the first couple of games of the regular season. McCann would start on Opening Day on Thursday against the Rangers in Arlington.
"We'll always pay attention to his fatigue level and his health," Hinch said of McCann.
Non-roster invitee Tim Federowicz will stay with the team the rest of the spring and begin the season at Triple-A Fresno.
J.D. Davis, who's competing with Tyler White for the first-base job that's vacant because of the injury and suspension to Yuli Gurriel, helped his case Friday afternoon by crushing two home runs off two different pitchers in a 2-2 tie against the Twins at Hammond Stadium.
Davis, who's hitting .365 this spring and slugging .712 with five homers and nine RBIs, hit an opposite-field homer to right field off Twins starter Lance Lynn in the second inning and homered to left field off sidearming reliever Trevor Hildenberger in the sixth.
"It's exactly the strength that he brings that he can leave the ballpark at any point, and he did it twice today on two different pitchers and two different areas and showed us exactly the reason why he's still in this mix to potentially break [camp] with us," Hinch said.
Davis, who leads the team this spring in homers and hits (19), admitted pregame he was nervous about the upcoming roster decisions, but knows he helped his case Friday.
"Especially going up against Lance Lynn, a big-time guy, probably a No. 1 [starter] for them," Davis said. "It's a relief having some good at-bats against him and clipping one over the fence for an [opposite-field homer]."
In the battle for a spot in the outfield, Tony Kemp went 0-for-4 on Friday and is hitting .214 with six walks and five strikeouts; White went 0-for-3 and is hitting .225 with two homers and eight RBIs this spring; and Derek Fisher went 3-for-4 with a double and is hitting .261 with a .386 on-base percentage, one homer, nine walks and 18 strikeouts.
"You can call it a competition, but you go out and try to get yourself ready for the season and whatever happens, happens," Davis said.
Hinch has been impressed at how the camp battles have brought out the best in his younger players.
"These guys have all played tougher and they're all friends and they're all competing for the same spots, but they've all been able to stay pretty calm," Hinch said.
Gurriel ramping up activities
Gurriel, who underwent surgery on Feb. 28 to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, was scheduled to take a more aggressive live batting practice on the field Friday in West Palm Beach, Fla. Gurriel was expected to increase the intensity of his workouts, Hinch said.
There remains a chance Gurriel doesn't start the season on the disabled list, which is a decision that won't be made until right before Opening Day. Gurriel is also slated to serve a five-game suspension to start the season for the insensitive gesture he made in the 2017 World Series, but if he starts the season on the DL he would have to miss at least 10 additional games.
"We don't have to make a determination until the day before the season starts, so we likely won't," Hinch said.
Right-handed pitcher James Hoyt is day to day with a left oblique strain.
The Astros remain in Fort Myers to face the Red Sox at 12:05 p.m. CT on Saturday, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Francis Martes, who began the year in big league camp before being sent to the Minors, will start the game and will be followed by a flurry of Minor League pitchers. George Springer, Jake Marisnick and Alex Bregman were the only regulars to make the trip to Fort Myers.
Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.