Gattis still recovering from hernia surgery

DH hoping to see playing time in left field or catcher's spot later this spring

Gattis still recovering from hernia surgery

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Evan Gattis has been zooming around the back fields driving an equipment cart. He's been listening in on the catcher's meetings, hanging out with the position players and watching pitchers throw in the bullpen from behind a fence.

Gattis, of course, would rather be working up a sweat and participating in drills at Osceola County Stadium with his teammates, but recent sports hernia surgery could sideline him for the rest of the spring. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said it's important the slugger stays as involved as he can.

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"We want his learning curve back into the baseball rhythm to be short," Hinch said. "He'll do some tracking with the machine, he'll do some things with the cage that don't threaten his rehab, but I haven't given up on reintroducing catching to him once he gets healthy.

"We've asked him to stay behind the pitchers and study them a little bit and get to know what they have and the type of arm angles they're coming from, so when he gets back there late in the spring, or early into the season, he's gotten a little more comfortable."

Outlook: Gattis, DH, HOU

Gattis has made it clear he would like to do more than be a designated hitter this year. He lost about 20 pounds during the offseason in an effort to be quicker. Gattis wants to get back behind the plate like he did with Atlanta and even play more left field than he did last year.

"He should have that goal," Hinch said. "Obviously, he needs to work and be good to be trusted to go out there. He's caught a lot of games in his career, he's played a little bit of left field last year. He's got a lot to offer and certainly gives me more options if he's more versatile.

"Health is going to be key for him, and my No. 1 priority is to get him back up and running and be healthy, and if that's predominantly as the DH, it's fine. As he feels better and better, we'll keep his versatility possible."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.