Astros want Gattis to focus on outfield early in camp

Hinch said club will eventually give slugger reps at first base

Astros want Gattis to focus on outfield early in camp

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Everyone wants to know what role slugger Evan Gattis will play this year. When asked a few days ago by reporters, Astros manager A.J. Hinch quipped, "right-handed batter's box."

Unless he's in the lineup at designated hitter, which is an option, Gattis will have to find a home on defense, and Hinch said Friday he plans to give Gattis a look in left field to start the spring. Expect him to get some action at first base later this spring.

"I'd like to get him acclimated to one position, get him some reps with [outfield instructor] Gary Pettis," Hinch said. "We'll work first base into it eventually. Initially, early in camp, I'd like him to focus on getting more comfortable in the outfield."

Gattis, who played 48 games in left in 2013 for the Braves, isn't known as a good defender -- something he's admitted -- but there isn't much ground to cover in left field at Minute Maid Park. He's played primarily catcher, but the Astros are set behind the plate with Jason Castro and Hank Conger.

Gattis' nice catch

"Seeing he's played [48] games in the outfield a couple of years ago, that's a faster comfort level for him," Hinch said. "He's been working hard this winter in the outfield -- he told me that. I just see that as a better fit early to get into camp."

When asked if Gattis' time in left field early was significant, Hinch said: "I wouldn't read too far into anything."

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.