Clemens Seeks New Home At First Base

Astros will try prospect at brand-new position





KISSIMMEE, Fla.—For Koby Clemens, the issue of late has been figuring out the position where he would finally find a home.

Was it third base, where he played as an amateur and began his professional career? Was it catcher, where he moved in his third of five pro seasons and began his breakout year at high Class A Lancaster? Or was it the outfield, where he played last year when a T.J. Steele injury opened up playing time?

At least for now, the answer appears to be none of the above. In one of the Astros' few positional changes of early spring, Clemens was making the transition to first base, playing the position almost exclusively.

"Being a third baseman out of high school, it feels like I'm flipped over a little bit, but it's going well," Clemens said. "I'm trying to get more comfortable over there, trying to be more one-handed."

It has been an odyssey for the oldest son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens. An eighth-round pick out of a Houston high school in 2005, Koby was left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft in the offseason, but nobody plucked him, leaving him to try to build on his best year.

Clemens hit .345/.419/.636 with 22 homers and 121 RBIs in Lancaster last year, but he will have a lot to prove when he leaves the comforts of the extreme hitter's park there and faces Double-A pitching for the first extended time.

"It's definitely going to be a big year for me to see how I do at that level where a lot of big-time prospect players are," Clemens said. "If I have a good year, anything can happen. But I'm not going to put any more pressure than I need to."

First base is a position where the Astros lack depth in the farm system. Clemens' manager last year was Wes Clements, who will manage him again this year at Double-A Corpus Christi. Clements played first base during his career and is working with Clemens and another player who's making a position switch, Drew Locke, to adapt to first base.

"He's one of the hardest workers out here, and he always has been," Clements said of Clemens, whom he calls a "baseball player" rather than wanting to label him with a position. "He wants to get better every day, and that's much easier on us."

SPACE SHOTS

n Righthander Matt Nevarez was optioned to the minors without getting to pitch in his first big league spring training. Nevarez, who excelled in a cameo with low Class A Lexington after being part of the package acquired from the Rangers for Ivan Rodriguez last summer, is seen as a potential closer going forward but has been hampered by shoulder soreness.

n Non-roster invitee Chia-Jen Lo and 40-man roster players Fernando Abad, Brian Bogusevic, Yordany Ramirez and Polin Trinidad were among those whose major league camp ended in a mass round of cuts on March 17.