Hoes, Grossman welcome competition for outfield spot

Pair likely competing for backup role with additions of Rasmus, Gattis

Hoes, Grossman welcome competition for outfield spot

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas -- After making the Opening Day roster a year ago, L.J. Hoes and Robbie Grossman will come to spring camp as perhaps the odd men out in an Astros outfield configuration that's gotten deeper with the additions of Colby Rasmus and slugger Evan Gattis.

That means the pair will be battling with Alex Presley for the fourth outfielder spot, with Rasmus and George Springer slated to start and Jake Marisnick's defense and good offensive showing at the end of last season giving him a leg up on some others.

Then there's Gattis, a slugger acquired in a trade from the Braves last week. He can play left field, but will see time at first base, designated hitter and will be the third catcher. Both Hoes and Grossman, however, see the competition as a good thing.

"Bringing those guys in, it's only going to make everyone better," Hoes said Thursday at an Astros Caravan stop at Whataburger. "Everyone's going to push each other. Guys like me, Robbie, Jake, guys who are on the fence of making the team, we're going to push each other in the spring, so that we're ready."

Hoes hits a solo homer

Hoes, 24, played in a career-high 55 games last year and was on an Opening Day roster for the first time, slugging a homer against the Yankees in the season opener. He made 27 starts in left field and eight in right field, hitting .172 with three homers and 11 RBIs.

He can play all three outfield spots, but that puts him in the same category as basically every other outfielder the Astros will carry. With that in mind, Hoes knows he'll need a good showing this spring. He played a month in Venezuela this winter and has been working out in San Diego with Orioles outfielder and close friend Adam Jones.

"Last year, going into camp, you had an idea if you were going to make the team, but not now," he said. "Now you have to go in there and be ready to play and prove yourself again. You have to be the 22-year-old guy you were going to big league camp for the first time."

Grossman, 25, has finished strong at the plate the last two seasons and is hoping to put it all together at the plate. If he can, he'd be a valuable piece of the equation because of his ability to get on base at a high rate and play all over the outfield.

Grossman's catch in the seats

Last year, Grossman started in left field on Opening Day and made 67 starts in left, six in center and 32 in right while playing a career-high 103 games. He hit .268 with four homers, 26 RBIs, 37 walks and a .366 on-base percentage after he was called up from Triple-A on July 8.

Grossman has been working out five days a week in Houston to ensure he's in the best position to make the club.

"It will be an interesting Spring Training, and we will be better than we were the last couple of years," Grossman said. "At some point, they're going to have to make their decisions on who they want playing. I'm just ready to go into spring and put my best foot forward."

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.