Gurriel begins full-time work at first base

Cuban infielder has spent majority of career at third

Gurriel begins full-time work at first base

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has said his team's offseason additions actually started in July, when the club signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a five-year, $47.5 million deal. A third baseman by trade, Gurriel was forced to move around last year after Alex Bregman's solid rookie debut at third.

The emergence of Bregman, the signings of outfielder Josh Reddick and designated hitter Carlos Beltran, and the trade for catcher Brian McCann have deepened Houston's lineup, with Gurriel moving to first base -- a revolving door for the Astros the past few years.

At the first full-squad workout at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Saturday, Gurriel was taking grounders at first.

"Last year, I didn't play too much at first base, but I played enough that when I came in they communicated I should be taking all reps at first base during Spring Training," Gurriel said.

Tyler White began last year as the Astros' starting first baseman, with Marwin Gonzalez getting time there as well. When White struggled at the plate, Gonzalez got most of the starts. He started 74 games, with White (50),  A.J. Reed (27) and Luis Valbuena (seven) also in the mix. Gurriel played 21 games at third base, five at first and one in left field last year.

"He's going to play first," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He obviously knows third, but first base is a huge priority for him for the spring. I will sprinkle in third base and be a little more bullish about his first-base time."

The Astros are confident the 32-year-old Gurriel, who spent his offseason in nearby Miami, will be able to handle first, but another challenge for Gurriel will be his conditioning. He admitted he was tired at the end of last year after playing nearly every day, which is something players in Cuba don't do.

Gurriel spent 15 years in Cuba's Serie Nacional but never played more than 89 games (since 2005).

"We play every single day," Hinch said. "It's just not something he was used to. The physical part of it, he's had to learn a little bit. The positioning, he's going to learn a little bit ... the comfortability on the team. He's not new, and he's going to have some guys he's played with now. I expect him to be a little more comfortable as he adapts and adjusts to the league."

Hinch on prep for 2017, bonding

Gurriel admits the grind of coming to the ballpark and playing every day was a learning experience.

"I learned what it takes to prepare for the season and the grind, and I feel prepared for this year," he said.

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.