Gonzalez could allow Astros to carry extra pitcher

Gonzalez could allow Astros to carry extra pitcher

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter said the decision whether to carry 12 or 13 pitchers, which means seven or eight relievers, to open the season will depend on the composition of the roster when it comes to position players.

The one player who could swing the decision is Marwin Gonzalez, who entered Thursday second among Grapefruit League hitters with a .441 batting average through 17 games. Gonzalez's versatility -- he can play third base, shortstop, second base and the outfield -- could mean the Astros could carry an extra arm if he makes the club.

"That's a big factor," Porter said when asked about Gonzalez. "The fact not only the spring he's having from an offensive standpoint, the flexibility he gives us being able to play a multitude of positions. We've put him in the outfield, he's going to see time at first base. We're going to get him in center field one of these games here.

"Having a guy that can play that many positions ... we always knew defensively what we have, but offensively, he's worked extremely hard on his game. There's not many fly balls anymore; it's hard ground balls and line drives, and I think he's really understanding who he is as an offensive player and has helped them tremendously."

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.