White plays his way onto Opening Day roster

First-base candidates optioned; club sends 6 others to Minor League camp

White plays his way onto Opening Day roster

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch closed the visitors' clubhouse at Champion Stadium to the media prior to Monday's 12-9 win over the Braves and told Tyler White to stand up. Hinch then put White on the spot, asking him if he knows where some of his teammates are from.

Hinch didn't torture White too long before letting him off the hook and delivering the best news of White's young life: He had made the Astros' 25-man roster to start the season, a remarkable achievement for a 33rd-round Draft pick.

"He was asking if I knew where people lived and stuff, and he said, 'It's important to know your teammates, because come April 4 you're going to be playing alongside them in New York,'" White said. "Great moment, great feeling."

White then raced to his phone, which was already full of text messages congratulating him, and called his parents, who had driven down from North Carolina, and told them the news before they saw it elsewhere. He was too late; they saw it on Twitter.

White and his parents shared a hug prior to the game against the Braves.

"It's not every day your son's dreams come," his mother, Heather, said, fighting back tears.

"We knew he definitely had a shot," his father, Brian, said. "We felt like he did. It's a business, too, so you've got to keep that consideration, and talking to Tyler about a week and a half ago, it was like, 'You don't want to get your hopes up too much, because it just makes the heartbreak that much worse.'"

Hinch wouldn't say how much White will play, but it's safe to say he'll get plenty of at-bats at first base and designated hitter. White was one of four players who entered camp battling for the starting first-base job, and he outplayed Jon Singleton, A.J. Reed and Matt Duffy.

White entered Monday's action hitting .366 with a .460 on-base percentage, 1.045 OPS, two homers, 10 RBIs and eight walks in 41 at-bats.

"He's done nothing but perform throughout his Minor League career, and it's a great story, and he's earned it," Hinch said. "So I let him know in front of the team that he's going to be a big leaguer a week from now. Now, fighting back the emotions, he's going to have to come out and play a Spring Training game, which is going to be tough for him, but I'm really proud [that] he won a job on the team."

Singleton, who was considered the front-runner for the first-base job entering camp, and Reed were among eight players cut from big league camp on Monday, joining infielder Joe Sclafani, catcher Tyler Heineman, outfielder Eury Perez, and pitchers Jake Buchanan, Michael Feliz and Cesar Valdez. Because they were on the 40-man roster, Singleton and Feliz were optioned; the other six were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Reed, who topped out at Double-A last year and is ranked as the No. 1 first base prospect by MLB.com, had a nice showing this spring, hitting .311 with three homers and nine RBIs. Singleton hit .151 with three homers and seven RBIs and remains an enigma.

"That was a tough conversation with him," Hinch said of Singleton. "You know he had a roller-coaster spring, and things were starting to trend in the right way for him. He's playing better, getting a little bit more consistent at-bats. His contact rate was going up. I told him, I said, 'It's very difficult when an opportunity's right there in front of you and we're going to choose to go with somebody different.' But he'll continue to fight and grind and claw and get better to hopefully be called up if and when we ever need it."

Feliz was in the running for the final spot in the bullpen as a long reliever but will instead begin the season in the Triple-A Fresno rotation. Veteran Wandy Rodriguez and hard-throwing right-hander James Hoyt are the two remaining candidates for that spot following the trade on Monday that sent Dan Straily to the Padres in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz.

Hinch said that catcher Roberto Pena, who had been the only healthy catcher in camp after starter Jason Castro, will travel with the team to Houston for the exhibition games against the Brewers. Also going to Houston will be infielders Colin Moran and Danny Worth, though they're not going to make the Opening Day roster.

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.