Wallace to compete for third-base job in spring
Last year's Opening Day starter at first played college hot corner
HOUSTON -- Now playing third base for the Astros ... Brett Wallace?
During a brunch with the media on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills said Wallace would be trying to win a job at third base during Spring Training. Wallace, last year's Opening Day starter at first base, played third in college at Arizona State and began his professional career at the position.
The Astros feel more comfortable with veteran slugger Carlos Lee at first base, which is where Wallace began last year before being sent to the Minor Leagues late in the season because of his offensive struggles. He hit .259 with only five homers and 29 RBIs as a first baseman.
"We're going to give him a look-see at third," Mills said. "He played there in college and in the Minor Leagues when he first signed. It's something we need to at least venture into and see if that's a possibility. Here's a guy who's hit at every level."
Wallace said the Astros approached him last month about moving to third. He has been fielding ground balls every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Minute Maid Park with first-base coach Bobby Meacham and Chris Johnson, who was the Opening Day third baseman last year.
"I've been happy with how quickly I've been able to get in a rhythm over there and feel comfortable again," Wallace said. "There's always going to be little things that come up from time to time, and maybe some days in Spring Training there are some things I have to talk to Meach about or he wants to talk to me about. It's fun going out there again and trying to get back into it, and it's coming back pretty quickly. I feel great and am excited for camp."
The Astros are hoping Wallace, who was acquired from the Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt deal, can finally reach his potential at the plate. He swatted 20 homers in the Minor Leagues in 2009 and 18 in 2010 at Triple-A Las Vegas prior to being traded to Houston.
Wallace, 25, will be competing with Johnson and Jimmy Paredes for playing time at third.
"Being able to do multiple things is good for me and the Astros," he said. "I think them having an open mind and wanting me to do it is good because I think it means they want me in the lineup somewhere. That's all I want, is to help this team win. If it's at first, great. If it's at third, that's great, too. I'm definitely excited."
Luhnow was with the Cardinals when they drafted Wallace in the first round in 2008, and Wallace began his career as a third baseman before being traded to Oakland a year later. Most recently, he played 52 games at third base at Triple-A Memphis in 2009.
"My belief is he's a capable third baseman, and we're going to give him an opportunity this spring and see how it goes," Luhnow said. "We think it will be a healthy competition this spring between C.J. and him and Paredes. We want to field the best team; we don't want to block guys.
"Wallace needs to get back to the swing and offensive production we know he's capable of, and whether that ends up at third base or first base, the offensive production is what we need him to do."
Johnson began last year as the starting third baseman before he joined Wallace in getting sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City at the end of July. The rookie Paredes stepped in and played third the rest of the season, hitting .286 with two homers and 18 RBIs.