Hinch envisions Valbuena getting plenty of playing time

While stopping short of naming full-time starter, manager likes what he sees from third baseman

Hinch envisions Valbuena getting plenty of playing time

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros didn't trade for third baseman Luis Valbuena for him to sit on the bench, so it wasn't a surprise when manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday that Valbuena would get a lot of playing time. Still, Hinch stopped short of saying Valbuena will be the full-time starter at third.

Valbuena, a left-handed hitter, hit .249 with a .341 on-base percentage, 16 homers and 51 RBIs with the Cubs, who sent him to Houston in the Dexter Fowler trade. The Astros' production at third last year was among the worst in the Majors.

"He's going to play a lot," Hinch said. "He puts up good at-bats, he hits homers, he draws walks, he's coming off a really good season. So I think he's going to play a lot with a lot of at-bats. Other guys can nudge into that as I've said, but I'm very pleased with Luis."

Matt Dominguez, the starter at third base the last two seasons, is fighting for a spot on the club and could wind up playing some first base. Dominguez, a right-handed hitter, will play some third if he makes the club, but Valbuena is destined to start.

"We've thrown a lot at Matty, giving him a new position to learn in the mornings," Hinch said. "I think Matty knows what he needs to do to make this team and fight for playing time."

A week into games, Hinch said all the players competing for spots on the club have played well.

"No one's playing themselves sort of out of consideration," Hinch said. "Valbuena has played terrific. I think he's put up steady at-bats and gotten a lot of regular playing time, so he's clearly on our team and is going to contribute a lot. So I think the balance of that is we talk about how we put together the rest of our roster. It's still undecided."

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.