HOUSTON -- Brian Bogusevic is no stranger to the back fields of Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., where the Astros will gather in less than three weeks to start Spring Training. This will be his seventh spring camp in the Houston organization, but he'll come in with more confidence than in years past.
Bogusevic, a first-round Draft pick as a pitcher out Tulane in 2005 who switched to the outfield three years later, had somewhat of a breakout second half of the season in 2011. He got the bulk of the playing time in right field after the Astros traded Hunter Pence, and he batted .287 with four homers and 15 RBIs.
The left-handed hitter will be among a handful of players competing for the starting job in right field this spring. That will be a nice change of pace for Bogusevic, who's yet to make an Opening Day roster.
"First and foremost, I want to go in healthy and playing well and try to make the team, but a goal of mine is I would like to be an everyday player," he said.
The competition for playing time in right field will be fierce. J.B. Shuck, who got his feet wet in the Majors last year, returns, and the Astros signed veteran Jack Cust and claimed former Mets top prospect Fernando Martinez off waivers to provide outfield depth.
Bogusevic, who will be 28 on Opening Day, made his Major League debut in 2010 and batted just .179 in 19 games at the end of that season. He bounced between Triple-A Oklahoma City and the Astros last year and was hitting .205 (9-for-44) with no homers through 44 games before he began to take off.
When Pence was traded to the Phillies in late July, Bogusevic stepped into right field, primarily starting against right-handers, and batted .317 with four homers and 15 RBIs in the final 43 games, raising his average 82 points. He had a .362 on-base percentage in that span and belted a walk-off grand slam to beat the Cubs on Aug. 16.
"It would be nice to build off a little bit of momentum at the end of last season, coming into this spring," he said. "Every year is a different year and there's a lot of changes in the offseason, and everybody's kind of in the same boat with a blank slate. You get the feeling that it's going to be the best players who are out there. Everybody is out there to prove they're those guys."
Bogusevic was limited to 13 at-bats against lefties with the Astros in the regular season and went to winter ball with the goal of seeing more southpaws. He batted .317 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 33 games for Aguilas of the Dominican Winter League, hitting .271 (13-for-48) against lefties.
"Facing left-handed pitching in winter ball, that was one of the things I wanted to work on and improve on and try to prove to the coaches that I could be the kind of player they could put out there every day, regardless of the matchup," he said.
Bogusevic saw plenty of left-handed relief pitchers in the Dominican as managers played lefty-on-lefty matchups with him at the plate. He hopes the experience pays off for the Astros this year.
"It took some getting used to, just because I didn't have a lot of at-bats against lefties during the season," he said. "When you're getting matched up against them, they're tough matchup guys because they're sidearmers and stuff, but I was happy with how it went."