ANAHEIM -- The Astros' bench isn't quite as versatile when Marwin Gonzalez isn't on it, and that's been the case lately considering how well he's been swinging the bat. The super sub has started 20 of the Astros' first 31 games at four different positions -- first base (five), third base (six), left field (six) and second base, where he made his third start in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Angels.
Since breaking an 0-for-18 slump with a single in his first at-bat on April 26 in Cleveland, Gonzalez went on a 13-for-28 tear with six homers and 15 RBIs in his next nine games. He started all but two games during that span.
"It changes [the bench] a little bit because of the versatility that Marwin brings," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I'm a little bit more one-dimensional when it comes to Jake [Marisnick] as a defensive guy and baserunner, [Evan] Gattis can provide some thump off the bench. ... Marwin's a valuable bench player, but when he's swinging the bat like this and playing all over the field, he warrants playing."
Gonzalez made three consecutive starts at third base last month when Carlos Correa was out after getting hit in the hand with a pitch (Alex Bregman shifted from third to shortstop), and last week in Cleveland Gonzalez started two consecutive games at second base after Jose Altuve injured his left shoulder following a collision with teammate Teoscar Hernandez. Now he's in the lineup because he has a hot bat.
"I think he's earned a little bit more playing time," Hinch said. "He's key in this because I also said at the beginning of the season I wanted to rest our primary guys as much as I can. … If Marwin's playing well, I can make sure that Yuli [Gurriel] doesn't get run into the ground, [Alex] Bregman doesn't. Name a player on our team and he could probably fill in for him, minus the catcher.
"Not only is it important for Marwin to get his at-bats, but his availability and his ability to handle different types of pitchers allowed me to give guys time off."
Gonzalez's versatility on the bench stems from the fact he plays so many different positions -- he hasn't started at shortstop yet this year -- and is a switch-hitter. That means Hinch can use him late in games to pinch-hit for almost anybody.
"The more versatility the better, but I've always gone by the notion that you've got to beat the [other team's starting pitcher]," Hinch said. "Obviously, it pays to have some guys that are available off the bench. You have two different types of games -- one where you have to beat the starter, and the other is where you beat their bullpen. You just have to pick which one."
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.