HOUSTON -- The loss of designated hitter Evan Gattis, perhaps until the start of the regular season or beyond following surgery to repair a sports hernia, will free up some at-bats this spring.
The Astros will get a better gauge on up-and-comers like Matt Duffy, Tyler White, A.J. Reed and Colin Moran.
Gattis, who underwent surgery on Tuesday in Philadelphia, will be out of action four to six weeks, which means he could start the season on the disabled list. The slugger hit .246 with 11 triples, 27 homers and 88 RBIs last year as the team's primary DH. He dropped about 20 pounds this winter in an effort to try to catch and play first base in 2016.
Duffy, White, Reed, Moran and Jon Singleton are among the candidates who will be vying for time at first this spring following the departure of Chris Carter. Gattis could have been in the mix, too, and it's not out of the question the Astros will explore external options on what is still a relatively deep free-agent market for this time of year.
"We're still very much in the process of determining whether this affects that," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We've been looking at various options throughout the offseason and are still doing that."
Gattis said on Tuesday that he was optimistic he will be ready for the start of the regular season or shortly thereafter. He hopes to get at-bats in mid-to-late March. Astros position players are scheduled to work out for the first time at Spring Training on Feb. 23.
"I'm always concerned when one of our players has an injury," manager A.J. Hinch said. "There's so much time between now and decision time. We've got a lot of things to sort out, but I never like to have someone as significant as Evan be banged up right before. But luckily we have the time on our side, and we'll sort of address it as his rehab goes and what he's able to do in Spring Training and as we approach the season. We're lucky to have enough time to sort it out."
Hinch said the Astros are built to absorb injuries, adding, "we'll be anxious to get Evan back to full health."
The Astros are scheduled to have an arbitration hearing with Gattis on Tuesday in Arizona. He's asking for $3.8 million, while the club is seeking to pay him $3 million in his first year of arbitration. Luhnow, whose team won an arbitration case against veteran catcher Jason Castro on Tuesday, declined comment when asked how the Gattis injury will affect the arbitration hearing.