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Amador working way into 1B competition

The SportsXchange

Japhet Amador, who is expected to compete for the Houston Astros'? open first base job, is steadily working his way back into baseball shape after arriving late to camp on last Thursday.

The 300-pound Mexican slugger passed his physical and was cleared to begin working out with the club over the weekend, but he is not likely to make his Grapefruit League debut until at least later in the week.

With Amador back in the fold, he will start competing with outfielder/first baseman Marc Krauss, top prospect Jonathan Singleton, veteran Jesus Guzman and Brett Wallace, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee after he was taken off the roster in early February. Slugger Chris Carter can also play first, but he is the incumbent designated hitter and already somewhat of a lock to make the Opening Day roster.

"I think these next two days are important for (Amador),"?general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday. "He'll stay back with the players who aren't playing, get a lot of swings in, work out and take ground balls.

"Later in the week we'll evaluate. We'll have a discussion later this week. We'll probably have him take some live (batting practice) on the minor-league side. Because he showed up essentially two weeks later than everybody else we're going to be patient so he's not going to be rushed."?

Amador, 26, reported late because his pregnant wife was ill back in Mexico. The career .320 hitter in the Mexican League hit 112 homers in Mexico before the Astros signed him last summer.

Although the corner outfield spots are technically open this spring as left fielder Robbie Grossman and right fielder L.J. Hoes try to maintain their spots and hold off top prospect George Springer, the first base job is the most open competition among the position players.

?"Krauss has been swinging the bat well early," Luhnow said. "He's definitely a candidate. He plays outfield and first. Wallace has got several at-bats early. Guzman was swinging the bat well. It's probably going to be a question all the way through camp. I doubt it will be resolved early."?

NOTES, QUOTES

--Special adviser Craig Biggio, the Astros icon and member of the 3,000-hit club, reported Monday to begin his first of two brief stints as a guest instructor at Astros camp. "I'll dress up here, and I like working," he said. "Just like if it was. I'm no longer doing the high school (coaching) thing. I enjoy getting out with our minor league kids and I enjoy getting out with our big league guys."

--GM Jeff Luhnow has been pleased with the team's defense early in the Grapefruit League. "With the exception of the ball Domingo (Santana) dropped, we've been playing pretty good defense," said Luhnow, who wants to see dramatic improvement after the Astros led the majors in errors in 2013. "Infielders are making their plays, outfielders are making their plays. We really need to execute that. We can't afford to give other teams any extra outs."

--RHP Jarred Cosart, who had a breakthrough rookie season in 2013 and is fighting for the No. 2 spot in the rotation, wasted no time getting into a solid rhythm. Cosart needed only 27 pitches while throwing two no-hit innings on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves. He struck out one and walked one over the scoreless frames.

--RHP Asher Wojciechowski, who suffered a lat strain during a bullpen session Feb. 1 at home, remains shut down from any throwing activities. Wojciechowski traveled to Houston on Friday to be examined. He took a PRP injection and rejoined the club Sunday in Kissimmee, Fla. "We're not concerned about anything too significant there," Luhnow said.

--RHP Anthony Bass, who is fighting for a bullpen spot this spring, earned some praise from Luhnow one day after earning the save against the Braves. He struck out two batters over one perfect inning. "Anthony Bass was pitching in the mid-90s and throwing strikes," he said. "That was a good outing for him. Probably has the best relief outing of the group (Sunday).?

--LHP Brett Oberholtzer, who is expected to earn a spot in the Opening Day rotation after a solid rookie season in 2013, showed up with a refined curveball in his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday. Although he gave up one run over two innings, he took a step in the right direction by using a pitch he vowed to improve over the winner. "It's come along really well," pitching coach Brent Strom told the Houston Chronicle.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I mean, there's nothing you can do about it. It was really, I mean, we were pretty close. And hopefully next year will be a better year for us. I really think that the way that everybody felt, really, has really made it easier for myself at least as far as the disappointment that everybody expressed to me. It really made it easier for me per se, just from the standpoint that people want it to happen, like we kind of hoped it would happen, but it didn't. But we came close. But the way that everybody kind of felt about it made it easier for me, I know that." -- Astros icon Craig Biggio in his first comments since he fell just two votes shy of earning a spot in the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class on his second year in the ballot.
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