Houston Astros: Evan Gattis is Transitioning to Catcher

Feb 22, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis (11) throws during a workout at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 22, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis (11) throws during a workout at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Astros’ Evan Gattis Catcher Experiment Could Happen at Any Moment

On Tuesday, Evan Gattis made his 2016 debut with the Houston Astros as the designated hitter batting seventh in the batting order. I mean, after all, you want to put to young players coming up from the minor leagues in low-pressure situations until they prove that they are ready to move up in the order. In his 2016 debut, Gattis looked a little rusty going hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts. People are already calling for him to ride the pine so fan favorite Preston Tucker can play.

Fans should no be too worried about Gattis’ performance Tuesday night because he is trying to get back in the swing of things. Tucker fans got what they wanted last night as Gattis rode the bench for the entire game. The Astros probably wanted to give another day off as he did not get to participate much in spring training. The Astros, for now, should go with a platoon at designated hitter.

With Tucker’s struggles against left-handed pitchers, look for Gattis to fill in on those days. Tucker is off to a hot start and is more able to make contact right now than Gattis is coming off his rehab. Some people believe that Tucker should be the primary guy at DH against right-handed pitchers, but Gattis will not like to ride the bench too often. He will get at-bats against left-handed pitchers and right-handers when there are favorable matchups for him to start against.

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The Astros appear serious this time about getting Gattis ready to be a possible option to play catcher at some point soon. Erik Kratz has been okay defensively but has struggled to walk the orange carpet and at the plate so far this season, but the Astros could be looking for a way to have Gattis as the backup catcher so that they won’t have to carry the extra catcher. Opening this roster spot would allow the Astros to carry an extra hitter or pitcher. Gattis did not catch at all in 2015, but maybe it is like riding a bike.

Before Wednesday’s game, Gattis worked out with A.J. Hinch, Kratz, and even Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. Gattis apparently showed off a good arm but had the day off from playing, but could have pinch-hit later in the game. In a pregame media session today, Hinch said that if he entered the game last night as a pinch hitter, he might have stayed in the game to catch if he found a way to tie the game. He will get at-bats as the designated hitter, but he will develop his catching legs during practice, via Brian McTaggart’s video.

One thing to consider though with Gattis serving as the designated hitter and the backup catcher, if he has to go into the game to replace Jason Castro at catcher, there will no longer be a designated hitter for the rest of the game. The pitcher would be inserted in the batting order, so this could be a factor later in the game. This is why you see the Buster Posey‘s and Carlos Santana‘s of the world play a corner infield spot so that they won’t lose the designated hitter in the lineup.

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As the designated hitter, Gattis’ overall game might be a liability, but as the backup catcher and part-time designated hitter, he could regain his confidence and maybe up his game at the plate a little. While the designated hitter rule might not come into play that often, the Astros would be able to carry the extra bat that could be used as the pinch hitter for the pitcher later. Let’s see how this plays out over the next few weeks.