Hinch: Astros' clubhouse can handle newcomers

Hinch: Astros' clubhouse can handle newcomers

OAKLAND -- A day after dugout confrontations involving pitcher Mike Fiers made news in the Astros' loss to the A's, manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday that his team is equipped to put such matters behind them. A bigger issue Hinch may soon deal with is the arrival of Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, who signed last week and is expected to join the team in a few weeks.

The likely eventual arrival of Gurriel, as well as top prospect Alex Bregman from Triple-A Fresno, means a couple of players currently on the roster will lose their spots. The players are cognizant Gurriel and Bregman are coming, and Hinch said his team's position player youth and enthusiasm will make that easier.

"That's generally the easier type of personalities that can adapt to new additions," Hinch said. "Obviously, an older team with more established veterans, more established roles that have been together for a long time, it's a tough shell to crack. The makeup of our team is our veterans are mostly in the pitching staff, with a couple of veteran position players, and certainly will pay attention to any new arrival, whether it be Gurriel or a younger player in the Minors."

Gurriel, a Cuban defector who signed a four-plus-year deal for $47.5 million, will have to get a work visa and get some time in Minor League games before joining the club. Bregman is crushing the ball at Fresno and could be up sooner than Gurriel. He started at third base Tuesday for the first time since he was at Double-A, and he'll be in left field for the first time Wednesday.

Gurriel and Bregman will be in the lineup daily, taking at-bats away from others. They could both play third, moving Luis Valbuena to first base, as well as left field. They're both expected to get time at designated hitter as well.

"I think my job is to set the culture and the expectations and the environment," Hinch said. "The chemistry is built by the players. Certainly, I'll be one of the first guys that welcomes any new player to our clubhouse and let them know their situations, their expectations, their playing time, their role on this team, and then it's up to him and the players to adapt to one another.

"It starts with communication before these guys get here. Obviously, with Gurriel, we know he's coming at some point. He's going to be a big-fixture part of our organization moving forward, and that process is already underway to give him an understanding of the type of team he will be joining eventually, and also give our players who are already here an opportunity to understand where he fits."

But Hinch admits the difficult part is somebody will have to lose their job to make room for Gurriel.

"And that hits the clubhouse hard," he said. "I don't care if you're the 25th man on his team or if you're a primary player who ends up getting traded. Any time you change the mixture, like any good family, any good group together, it's going to have an impact. We're strong enough to handle any of the change or any personality that enters our clubhouse. We have that good of chemistry. It will be a test over time to see how it truly impacts us."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.