Shuck Almost Stuck With Astros





HOUSTON As the early part of the season unfolded at the upper levels of the Astros minor league system, the decision-makers in Minute Maid Park were paying perhaps more attention than usual.

After the Astros invited 10 of their own minor leaguers to spring training on non-roster invitations, it will be easier for people to put names with faces and faces with names. And perhaps no players has become more recognizable to Astros brass than J.B. Shuck, who got the most face time all spring and could be in the big leagues by season's end.

The 23-year-old Shuck was essentially the last cut from spring training after competing with Jason Bourgeois for the final outfield spot. And if the Astros hadn't acquired Joe Inglett to be a lefthanded infielder off the bench, Shuck's handedness might have carried him onto the roster.
 
Instead, the 2008 sixth-round pick out of Ohio State was off to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he got off to a blazing start with 15 hits in his first 45 at-bats.

While typical of his career—Shuck entered 2011 with a .303/.380/.391 average in 1,347 at-bats—his statistics are not typical of a corner outfielder, his likely position if he were to reach Houston. Shuck has seven career home runs in parts of four minor league seasons.

"I really try to be patient, get a pitch to hit and if I don't, I have no problem walking and think it's a big part of my game too," he said.

Should he stick at some point this year, he'll be relied upon for a variety of skills outside the power game that corner outfielders often provide.

"His ability to put the bat on the ball is a plus," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "His speed is a plus. He's not going to hit into a lot of double plays and be able to get on."

And with the start he was off to in Triple-A, it might just be a matter of time before he puts those to use.

SPACE SHOTS

• Outfielder Telvin Nash returned from a groin injury to homer in his season debut on April 14. Nash, who hit 13 home runs in 213 at-bats last year with short-season Tri-City, followed that up with a three-home run, five-hit game.

• Second baseman Jose Altuve had four multi-hit games in his first five with high Class A Lancaster. Through eight games, the 5-foot-5 Altuve got off to a .375/.438/.589 start in 56 at-bats with the JetHawks.