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.