Fields back in the bullpen mix for Astros

Right-hander joins dominant relief corps

Fields back in the bullpen mix for Astros

OAKLAND -- Reliever Josh Fields joined the Astros on Friday after recovering from a strained groin he sustained near the end of Spring Training. In a corresponding move, which was announced by the team Wednesday night, Houston optioned infielder Jonathan Villar to Triple-A Fresno.

Fields, who posted a 4.45 ERA in 54 2/3 innings for the Astros last season, allowed two runs in six innings of rehab work with Fresno. The right-hander threw 36 pitches while recording two scoreless innings on Monday in his final outing with the Grizzlies. It was a lengthy rehab assignment that lasted 10 days, but Fields said he's happy to be back with the big league club.

"It was part of the process," Fields said. "I didn't want to come back and not be totally ready. I felt like I got in what I needed to get done and trying to give myself the best chance to be able to come up here and stay healthy and stay up here. Felt like that's what I needed to do that, and we got it done."

He's back with an Astros bullpen that entered play Friday with a 1.94 ERA, which was second-best in the American League and third-best in the Majors.

"Josh Fields is a real weapon in the 'pen anytime during the game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I told him, he'll be used primarily as a bridge in the middle part of the game. Get a couple outings under his belt, we can move him into a number of roles."

Hinch added that Villar will be used at five different positions -- second base, third base, shortstop, left field and center field -- with Fresno, as the organization envisions a utility role for the 23-year-old, who went 1-for-13 with the Astros to start the season.

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.