After a week of spring training games for the Astros, Evan Gattis made his debut in left field in Monday’s game versus the Blue Jays. It was the first time since 2013 that Gattis has played in the outfield. When the Astros traded for Gattis, it was made clear that the Astros had no intention of playing him at the catcher. The Astros want him to stay healthy, and play him in as many games as he can in left field, or even at first base. The Astros are already fully stocked at catcher, with Jason Castro, Hank Conger and Max Stassi, who is the future for the Astros behind the dish.
On Monday, Gattis played five innings in left field, but not a single ball was hit in his direction. In between innings, Gattis sneaks behind home plate to catch some warm-up pitches. He probably hopes the Astros management sees that, and will get him some time behind the plate during spring training. You can’t blame Gattis for missing his old position, because it’s what he knows. To put an educational spin on this, Gattis moving from catcher to the outfield is similar to an Algebra 1 teacher being asked to move to the History department. Yes you’re still teaching, but by changing departments, you have to learn a new way to do the same thing you did before.
Gattis said that he could see himself getting very comfortable in left field, but it will take some time. He feels like he does not get to ground balls as fast as he would like to. If he is to be the every day left fielder for the Astros in 2015, he will have to learn the nuances to playing left field with the Crawford Boxes. Carlos Lee was not a great defender, but he was able to withstand playing in left field for all those years with the Astros.
Manager A.J. Hinch states that Gattis is a better defender in left field than most people give him credit for. He hasn’t played in the outfield since 2013, so it’s going to feel a little weird. Bottom line is that Chris Carter is the Astros designated hitter at the moment, with the future at first base being Jon Singleton.
Once Gattis gets some more in-game situations, he will become more comfortable. The problem is that Gattis has only played left field twice so far this spring, with one of those games being a “B” game where stats don’t count. He has had only five official innings in left field, and the number of chances to start is starting to dwindle.
The Astros need to get more playing time in the outfield for Gattis if he is to be the everyday guy out there. Carter has put more time in at first base, while Gattis has not even played there, either. All signs are pointing to Gattis being the DH and Carter playing a position when the season begins.
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