Astros give hot-hitting Gurriel first start at first

Astros give hot-hitting Gurriel first start at first

ARLINGTON -- The idea of playing infielder Yulieski Gurriel at first base intensified for Astros manager A.J. Hinch when Marwin Gonzalez left Wednesday's game against the A's with right hamstring discomfort. But the idea had been tossed around ever since Gurriel was called up on Aug. 21.

After logging three innings at first base in Friday night's loss, Hinch went ahead and gave Gurriel his first start there in the second game of the Astros' three-game series against the Rangers on Saturday. A.J. Reed got the start at first base on Friday, but he went 0-for-2 before being removed in the sixth. Reed is 0-for-his-last-16.

"We're at a point where we're trying to put the best team out there that we can," Hinch said. "We're not always going to feel comfortable on defense. ... With Marwin down and Reed struggling, it starts to makes these decisions a little tougher. But at the same time, we're trying to put the best team on the field."

Gurriel has made six starts with the Astros --- four at designated hitter, one in left field and one at third base. He's hit safely in five of his last six games and is hitting .375 in 24 at-bats since being called up, so the Astros are looking for any way to get him in the lineup.

"It's a little difficult, I've never played there before," Gurriel said. "But we're at the time of the year with the Wild Card creeping up and we're at the end of the season. I just don't want to mess up, and [I want to] help the team."

Gurriel joked that he had a little trouble finding the base on the back end of a 6-4-3 double play after being inserted at first in the sixth. Hinch cited Gurriel's naturally gifted defensive ability as a reason he feels comfortable playing him at first.

"The base won't move," Hinch quipped. "I've been around the game long enough to know we have no problem putting catchers over there and we have no problems putting infielders over there. It won't look natural with things like timing and being able to react to certain angles of balls, but he'll be fine."

Along with Gonzalez and Reed, Jason Castro, Luis Valbuena and Tyler White have all seen time at first for the Astros this year. Hinch believes Gurriel's calm demeanor will help him succeed with the new position.

"He's the most laid-back, even-keel type of player that I could ask for to basically have to shift his role," Hinch said. "We talk a little bit about the intricacies of the position, but he has a really low-key heartbeat -- no anxiety, no concern. He's just going to do his thing.

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.