Gurriel sees first action with GCL Astros

Gurriel sees first action with GCL Astros

DETROIT -- Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel was in the lineup for the first time on Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla., for the Gulf Coast League Astros at designated hitter, after having his work visa approved, general manager Jeff Luhnow said. He struck out in first at-bat against Mat Latos, who was pitching for the GCL Nationals. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against the GCL Nationals.

Gurriel, 32, signed a 4 1/2-year, $47.5-million contract with the Astros on July 16. He had been working out in Kissimmee for the last couple of weeks, but couldn't play in games until he got his visa approved. It's expected he'll join the lineup at Double-A Corpus Christi soon, in preparation for making his Major League debut with the Astros in August.

"It's great to see him in an actual game," Luhnow said. "I do think we have to be cautious. This is like the first game of Spring Training. There's a long way to go before we feel like he's ready to face Major League pitching, but today is the first step, and now he can go on the second step."

Luhnow said Gurriel will take Sunday off and return to the lineup Monday.

"After that, we have to make a determination, because the GCL is on the road for most of the week in remote places of Florida that require long drives," he said. "Depending on how things go Monday, we may keep him there or may decide to pop him out to another affiliate or see what happens at that point."

Gurriel, who defected from Cuba with his younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a top outfield prospect, after the Caribbean Series in February, is one of Cuba's most celebrated players. He represented the country at the Olympics in 2004 and played in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments. He was part of Cuban championship teams at the Pan American Games, Central American Games, World Baseball Championships, the International Cup and Caribbean Series.

Gurriel can play second base and third base, and he has been described as a more fluid and athletic Jeff Kent. Gurriel hit .500/.589/.874 with 15 home runs, 20 doubles and 51 RBIs in 49 games for the Industriales in 2015.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for 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.