Astros' first-base competition heats up

Astros' first-base competition heats up

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The competition to be the Astros' starting first baseman on Opening Day began to heat up Sunday when all four primary candidates -- Jon Singleton, A.J. Reed, Matt Duffy and Tyler White -- enjoyed big days the plate in a pair of split-squad games.

In the Astros' 11-8 win over the Pirates at McKechnie Field, Duffy hit a pair of home runs while starting at third base, White started at designated hitter and mashed a two-run homer, and Reed went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a double at first base. Meanwhile, Singleton went 2-for-4 with a homer, double and three RBIs in the Astros' 7-1 win over Toronto on Kissimmee.

"I'll take the competition heating up a little bit and having these guys perform and settle into their swings a little bit," manager A.J. Hinch said.

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Duffy, who played nine innings at third base against the Pirates, leads the team with three homers in the spring. He sent a pitch over the right-center field wall in the fourth inning and cranked a solo shot to left in the ninth inning.

Duffy's second home run

"It feels good," Duffy said. "Just trying to stick with a solid approach and get a good pitch to hit and got a few up in the air."

Reed, rated as the top first-base prospect in the game by MLB.com, has been going the other way early in the spring as he faces shifts like the Pirates showed him Sunday by putting three defenders between first and second base. He started to get shifted his junior year in college.

"I feel like I have more power the other way," Reed said. "I hit a lot of home runs to center and left-center. My approach is to try and drive the ball to left-center, drive the fastball that way. If I can get there, I feel like I'm in a good spot."

White has done nothing but hit his entire Minor League career, and some early positive results in big league camp have to be encouraging. But he's not getting wrapped up in the race to start at first.

White's game-tying homer

"That's the game," he said. "We're all teammates here. I'm just trying to play my game and make myself as good as possible. They're doing the same thing. It's a competition. We're rooting for each other, and if we could all help out, that'd be great."

And having all of them push each other is exactly what Hinch wants to see.

"In a perfect world, we have as many options as possible that are ready to play," Hinch said. "Being that it's one of the few spots that's open, it's going to get a lot attention and these guys know it, and we haven't shied away from it. It's nice to see guys have a good day."

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.