Admittedly 'not all that comfortable,' Gattis debuts in left

Admittedly 'not all that comfortable,' Gattis debuts in left

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Evan Gattis went out between innings a couple of times during Monday's game against the Blue Jays and found himself in a familiar position, crouched behind the plate and catching pitches while helping warm up the pitcher.

Gattis made sure manager A.J. Hinch saw him, but the Astros have no interest in seeing Gattis behind the plate beyond that. Gattis is here because of his bat, and the Astros are giving him as many reps in left field as they can. He started in left for the first time this spring on Monday, playing five innings.

"I'm still not all that comfortable, but I think I could see myself getting pretty comfortable out there," Gattis said. "I feel like Spring Training games aren't the big leagues, but they're close -- just being in the game situation more."

Gattis, who hit 45 homers in 213 games the last two years with the Braves, hadn't appeared in left field in a big league game since his rookie season of 2013, when he started 47 games in left field, 38 at catcher and four at first base. The only defensive position he played last year was catcher, but the Astros will only use him there in an emergency.

"I think he's a better outfielder than he gets credit," Hinch said. "Insecurities in players come out of when you're not comfortable with the volume that you've spent out there. It's one of the reasons we gave him primarily left field as an area of focus at the beginning of camp. It's not a glaring weakness as some people might portray, but we're going to have to let him get some experience in order to get him comfortable."

Hinch said he would like to see Gattis get more comfortable with balls to his left and right, and good positioning will help him.

"I think balls on the ground, I had more trouble getting to in a hurry," Gattis said. "Probably more of a technical thing and just understanding, the importance of making an error in the outfield on the ground, somebody that's on base on the infield, that's two bases that gets past in the outfield. Just understand the position better, but I think it'll all come."

The Astros, at some point, will give Gattis some reps at first base as they figure out how to configure a roster that includes a surplus of outfielders, including George Springer, Colby Rasmus and Jake Marisnick, as well as Chris Carter, who like Gattis, can play first base and designated hitter.

"That off-day on [March 18], I think we have to figure out what the last two weeks include, and some of that might include first base with Gattis, it might not, depending on how things are trending," Hinch said.

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.