Utility man Gonzalez gets first career start at first base

Utility man Gonzalez gets first career start at first base

ARLINGTON -- When he was told during the spring that he would be getting some time at first base this season, versatile infielder Marwin Gonzalez figured he might get a few innings at first late in games when the Astros have the lead.

Gonzalez made his first career start at first base Sunday against the Rangers, a move in part precipitated by the struggles of Chris Carter, who's 1-for-19 to start the season and who also dropped a throw at first base Saturday that led to three runs. It also helped that Gonzalez made his first start of the season Saturday (at shortstop) and went 2-for-4 with a homer.

"I thought Marwin swung the bat very well last night," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously, he started his season off well with a homer and opposite-field base hit. It's a good day to get him in there and put him at first and give Chris a day and see where it takes us."

Gonzalez, a shortstop by trade, has proven to be a valuable utility player in the last couple of years and has gotten some time at third base, second and even the outfield. His experience at first base in the Majors is one inning in a game last year, though he got some reps there in the spring.

"I won't say it's easy, but I will take it like another position on the infield and I played a few games in Spring Training and I felt comfortable," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to do the same today."

As for Carter, Hinch said he'll have him back in the lineup Monday.

"Struggles mentally and physically, sometimes a day [off] is good for everybody," he said.

Hinch knows from his playing days how difficult it can be for a bench player to play sparingly, so getting Gonzalez into consecutive games can only help him.

"He's ready every day and either gets used or not," he said. "It's a tough role for him. … Their time is few and far between and is usually dictated on how other guys need rest. Sometimes they can push their way in with good nights like Marwin did. It's a tough job being a bench player in the big leagues."

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.