Astros promote Gurriel to Double-A

Cuban star playing 3B, expected to reach Majors next week

Astros promote Gurriel to Double-A

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, whom the Astros signed to a 4 1/2-year, $47.5 million contract on July 16, has been promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, the team announced Monday. He'll be in the lineup for the Hooks at home against Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday in what should be his last Minor League stop before reaching the big leagues.

Gurriel, 32, hit .429 (6-for-14) with a home run -- a grand slam on Sunday -- and nine RBIs in four games at Class A Advanced Lancaster. Prior to joining Lancaster, he played two games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and was 2-for-7. He's expected to play in Corpus Christi through Sunday and arrive in Houston on Aug. 16 against the Cardinals.

"I think he's in Spring Training mode," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "There's no way for him to train for this game other than for him to play every day. His body seems to be on the uptick, his bat speed is good. The reports have been favorable with how he moves around the field defensively. He's in a different structure of preparation given his age, given his experience. He knows how to get himself ready to play."

Hinch said Gurriel will play third base while with the Hooks, which is likely to be his position with the Astros. Top prospect Alex Bregman has been playing third base recently with Luis Valbuena on the disabled list. The Astros wanted to play Bregman routinely in left field when they called him up, but Valbuena's injury forced him to third.

"As things change and we heal and get back to normal and the arrival of Gurriel, I could see his versatility being emphasized a little bit more," Hinch said. "As of now, he's going to play a dynamic third base, which has been very impressive so far."

The Astros are hoping Gurriel can help an offense that entering Monday was hitting .205 with one home run in its past nine games. The Cuban slugger defected with his younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a top outfield prospect who on Monday was declared a free agent by MLB, after the Caribbean Series in February and is one of the country's most celebrated players.

Gurriel represented Cuba at the Olympics in 2004 and played in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments. He was part of Cuban championship teams at the Pan American Games, Central American Games, World Baseball Championships, the International Cup and Caribbean Series.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.