Cuban star Gurriel set to make big league debut for Astros
BALTIMORE (AP) Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch has already described Yulieski Gurriel as an international star. Now, the 32-year-old Cuban will get a chance to make his mark at the major league level.
Gurriel was called up Sunday by Houston from Triple-A Fresno and set to make his debut as the designated hitter against Baltimore. He had to wait a little longer to bat - the start of the game at Camden Yards was delayed because of rain.
''This is the one test in his whole life he has never answered,'' Hinch said. ''He's played at every level in the world and been on the center stage and one of the best international players for a long time. This will be different for him, he'll feel like a rookie again.''
Gurriel, who signed a $47.5 million, five-year deal with the Astros on July 16, is primarily a third baseman. This weekend, the AL wild-card contenders sent third baseman Luis Valbuena back to Houston to re-evaluate his injured right hamstring, and he could be out for the season.
But Gurriel can play other positions and could possibly get some time in left field, Hinch said. Gurriel said he is open to helping the club any way he can.
''I'm not going to be nervous. Excited is probably a better word,'' Gurriel said through a translator. ''This has been a dream of mine for years. For a Cuban player to make it is a big deal, so I'm excited.''
Gurriel batted .250 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games (56 at-bats) with four Astros' minor league affiliates. That was enough for Houston to give him an opportunity at the major league level, especially with Valbuena ailing.
''He got up to 50 at-bats with us in the minor leagues,'' Hinch said. ''That's a normal spring training for him. We've bounced him around the country. But from a baseball standpoint, he's ready and he's ready for this challenge. To add him to this group is exciting for us, certainly fun for us, our guys will be excited about it. His baseball readiness, he's in shape and ready to go.''
Gurriel said the biggest adjustment might be dealing with all of the excessive travel of a major leaguer. That was never an issue in his native Cuba. He got his first taste of that grind flying from California to Maryland to meet his new teammates.
''Those trips are always a little tiring,''Gurriel said. ''Obviously, in Cuba I didn't travel as much as they do here. But I'm ready to play and help my team today.''
To make room on the roster, infielder Tyler White was optioned to Triple-A after Saturday's game.