Posted on February 28, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Yuli Gurriel

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Due to Yulieski Gurriel being suspended during last year’s World Series, the Houston Astros knew they’d start the 2018 season without their first baseman. But now it looks like they’ll be without him for longer than anticipated. The Astros announced Wednesday that Gurriel has undergone surgery on the hamate bone in his left hand. He’s expected to be out for six weeks and will begin the season on the DL. Gurriel will then serve his five-game suspension once he’s activated from the DL.

“This is a minor setback,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said of the injury. “We knew that was going to be the case anyway for the suspension, but instead of five days, it might be 10 days or 15 days. Whoever it is who gets that spot is going to have more time to prove themselves.”

It’s unclear how Gurriel injured his hand. The 33-year old slugger hit a home run during his first spring training at-bat on Saturday. However, he didn’t play Monday as scheduled because of pain in the hand. Gurriel traveled to Houston on Tuesday when team doctors determined that he would need surgery.

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“The right course of action is to just remove it,” said Luhnow. “It’s a pretty reliable surgery and we know what the outcome is going to be. He should be back to 100 percent once he’s recuperated.”

A six-week timetable would put Gurriel on pace to return the second week of April. Of course, when you factor in the five-game suspension and the fact that he will miss almost all of spring training, Gurriel could end up missing the first two or three weeks of the regular season.

In the meantime, the Astros will look for a temporary replacement at first base. On the surface, Houston could simply shift utility man Marwin Gonzalez to first base until Gurriel returns. That would make it easy for the Astros to give regular at-bats to youngster Derek Fisher in left field. However, the Astros appear willing to explore their other internal options at first base to allow Gonzalez to move around throughout the diamond.

“J.D. Davis is having a great spring so far, A.J. Reed is looking good and Tyler White is looking good and playing well,” said Luhnow. “We feel like we’ve got the guys internally. We have depth at the positions that Yuli plays. It’s a matter we don’t have to go outside the organization at this point.”

Davis is an intersting candidate. He’s primarily a third baseman but is blocked at the hot corner by Alex Bregman. He had a great season in the minors last year and is off to a hot start this spring. Reed has big-time power, hitting 34 home runs in triple-A last year. But he struggled to assert himself in a major league stint in 2016. White, meanwhile, has started 62 games at first base for the Astros over the past two seasons but has had mixed results offensivley.

Ultimately, the Astros should have enough lineup depth to survive without Gurriel for a few weeks. However, with Gurriel being capable of playing other positions, if a player like Davis, Reed, or White can take advantage of the opportunity present by Gurriel’s injury, it could lead to more playing time even after Gurriel returns.

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