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Gonzalez, Greene looking for everyday job at shortstop

Gonzalez, Greene looking for everyday job at shortstop

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One brings Gold-Glove caliber defense and is a switch-hitter. The other is a plus runner and provides more than a little pop with the bat. They collectively have the DNA makeup of an All-Star player, but the Astros must decide which tools fit them the best.

Tyler Greene came to camp with a chance to land the starting shortstop job for the first time in his Major League career, and based on how many innings he's played at the position in Grapefruit League play, the Astros are giving him every shot to be the guy.

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Marwin Gonzalez, who spent all of last season with the Major League club as a Rule 5 pick, has been seeing plenty of time on the field, too, though he's played all over the infield with the exception of first base. They both bring plenty to the table, and trying to determine who will start at shortstop is one of the most intriguing things going on at camp.

"I said this to Tyler and Marwin, 'You guys are going to tell us who the starter is going to be,'" Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It cannot be something that is judged day in and day out. It's a process, and we're going to allow it to take place throughout the course of Spring Training, and when we get to the end of Spring Training, we'll have enough data and enough information to make a really good decision who the starter should be."

Greene, 29, was acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Cardinals last August and hit .246 with six doubles, seven homers and 11 RBIs with Houston, starting 30 games at shortstop and three at second base. His power stroke -- he hit 85 homers in 616 Minor League games -- and ability to steal bases are valuable tools.

After being drafted by the Cardinals -- and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow -- in the first round out of George Tech in 2005, Greene bounced between St. Louis and Triple-A after making his Major League debut in 2009. He's excited at the chance to play every day.

"To be out here every day and have some consistent playing time is huge," he said. "Coming off the bench is tough. It's a tough role, but everybody's goal is to be an everyday player. That's the goal for me, that's what I'm striving for. It would be a real difference for me to be out there every day."

Gonzalez, who turns 24 next week, stuck with the club last year after being taken in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft and made a good impression on new management. The switch-hitter batted .234 in his first taste of life in the big leagues with two homers and 12 RBIs, and he proved to be a terrific defensive shortstop.

"I feel more confident, absolutely," Gonzalez said. "I'm more relaxed now. It's a different situation. We are all fighting to get a spot, but I'm not worried about that. I just want to play hard and have some fun and enjoy the game."

Gonzalez showed his versatility last year by making 38 starts at shortstop, six at third base and four at second base, and he's continued to get looks at multiple positions this spring. That versatility could make him more valuable as a bench player, but he's not ready to concede anything.

"It's a good competition, a friendly competition, and whoever does better and whoever they want to play, he will be in that spot," Gonzalez said.

And there's a mutual respect between the two that's genuine.

"He's a great player," Greene said of Gonzalez. "He's going to be a big part of the team. He's definitely going to be able to play good defense and he's a switch-hitter, which is a good advantage against any pitcher. Just to have his versatility and his leadership because he was with the team all last year, that will be good throughout the year."

Gonzalez is spreading the love for Greene.

"He's pretty good, absolutely," he said. "He's fast and has some good power and plays a good shortstop, too."

Last year's trade took Greene from a Cardinals club that has contended for the division each year for a decade to a rebuilding team coming off 107 losses. But it also gave him an opportunity to finally prove he's a starting shortstop in the big leagues -- but he'll have to win the job.

"I keep the same mentality to go out and win every day," he said. "That's how I'm going to approach it, that's how I'm going to play and that's how I always played. I won't change from that end."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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