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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — No matter what, Yuli Gurriel will not be with the Houston Astros on Opening Day. But the first baseman might not be on the disabled list, either.

After several days of soft-toss batting practice sessions, Gurriel was scheduled to swing against a pitching machine on Sunday.

“These next two days of hitting off the high-velocity machine will be a big test for him because that’s where the resistance will increase and so will his speed,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.

The 33-year-old Gurriel underwent surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand on Feb 28.

Gurriel will remain in West Palm Beach when the rest of his Astros teammates break camp on Sunday. If he continues to progress, he could see time in minor league games in the coming days before rejoining the major league club.


“It’s the decision of the front office, but I feel pretty good, and the doctors have said my recuperation is going better than expected,” Gurriel said.
Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel underwent surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand on Feb 28. Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
The World Series champion Astros open the season Thursday at Texas.

A .299 hitter who drove in 75 runs last season during his first full year in the majors, Gurriel’s 2018 would have started later than his teammates’ regardless of the injury. Major League Baseball suspended Gurriel for the first five games of this season for his inappropriate gesture directed at Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during the World Series.

Gurriel’s surgery was the only real hiccup in a relatively quiet spring in which Houston went 19-9.

“We didn’t have a perfect camp, but we did have a healthy camp,” Hinch said.

The Astros didn’t appear to lose any momentum in camp.

“We take a lot of pride in the way we play,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “When we go out there, we try to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spring training game or a regular-season game. We go out there and try to perform to the best of our abilities, and the outcome of that is going to be winning ballgames.”

Houston doesn’t have to officially announce its major league roster until Thursday, but the Astros effectively did so over the weekend by optioning Tony Kemp and Tyler White to the minor leagues and telling J.D. Davis that he will be a member of the Opening Day roster.

“I was close to tearing up over it,” Davis said.

After electing to keep Max Stassi with the major league club, Houston will roster three catchers, but Evan Gattis is expected to serve primarily as Houston’s designated hitter.

“I think when you add the guys we added with the guys we’re bringing back and the experience we all gained from last year, we feel as a team we got better,” catcher Brian McCann said.

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LOS ANGELES — The game was looking scary for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team hanging on to a final playoff spot by the thinnest of margins.

The Orlando Magic, owners of the worst record in the Eastern Conference, led the Clippers by nine points midway in the third quarter. The Clippers, though, had a final push, controlling the fourth quarter and going on to a 113-105 victory over the Magic on Saturday night.

“Tonight was a struggle, you could just see it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We hung in there long enough, but then in the fourth quarter we got enough stops.”

Lou Williams scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth, including consecutive 3-pointers that finally gave the Clippers some room. Williams leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (7.7 per game).

“Lou made some great plays down the end,” Orlando’s Shelvin Mack said. “He’s very aggressive. He’s my good friend. I play with him all the time. He can go 0 for 20 and he still thinks he’s going to make the next one. He just kept firing.”

The Clippers outscored the Magic 26-16 in the fourth quarter to finally pull away. Tobias Harris added 21 points for the Clippers, and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds and Milos Teodosic added 15 points and seven assists.

“They played lights out,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “You’ve got to tip your cap to them, they’re playing very well. Offensively, we couldn’t stop them during that (fourth-quarter) stretch.”

The Clippers have won four of their last five, while the Magic have lost 11 of their last 13. Orlando fell to 20-47 with the loss.

“People look at the records in the NBA and think, `Oh, you’re going to win,” Rivers said. “It just doesn’t happen. You have to play well to win an NBA game. And we played just well enough.

“Give Orlando credit. They’re out of the playoffs, but they’re making you play hard and not just rolling over.”

The Clippers moved a half-game ahead of Denver and Utah in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot with the win.


Magic: With F Aaron Gordon out for a second game with concussion symptoms, rookie Jonathan Isaac again started. Some of his teammates want to see him be more aggressive with open shots. “We call them rhythm pass-ups,” Vogel said. “If you execute your offense, the defense is going to react to it, the ball is going to swing and it creates a rhythm shot. If you pass that up, it leads to a worse shot and a one-on-one situation.”
Clippers: Williams leads the team in scoring, mostly as a bench player, but the man Rivers called “lethal” offensively, had oddly hit only 11 of his last 20 free throws entering Saturday. “He’s human,” Rivers said. “It won’t last. I can guarantee that. And one guy who is not worried about it is Lou. I’ve never seen a more lethal, relaxed scorer than him. I mean, nothing fazes him. That’s probably why he’s good.” … The team announced it would return to Hawaii next summer for training camp.


The 30-year-old rookie from Europe did not start, but played 31 minutes and helped push the Clippers to victory.

“The thing I love about Milos is, he’s a winner,” Rivers said. “You can feel it. He’s competitive. And in games like these, that’s when he’s at his best. We needed someone to be competitive tonight, and I thought Milos was that.”


Magic: complete a five-game trip Tuesday in San Antonio.

Clippers: open three-game trip in Chicago on Tuesday.

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