If a mod wants to put all the other threads I started into this one, s/he can.
Righthanded reliever Jeff Fulchino, 29, whom the Astros claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals, signed a one-year, $400,000 contract.
Fulchino was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in 12 appearances for the Royals last season.
Fernando Nieve, P Signed to a one-year contract
Yordany Ramirez, OF Agreed to terms on a one-year contract
Edwin Maysonet, IF Agreed to terms on a one-year contract
Tyler Lumsden, SP Agreed to terms on a one-year contract
Brad James, P Agreed to terms on a one-year contract
Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports the Houston Astros will void the minor league contract of Toby Hall.
Hall's shoulder requires surgery, which will keep him out of the game for nearly four months. The Astros had expected Hall to recover from his injury via rehab over a timeframe closer to one month.
Presumably, Hall will re-enter the market once his health is firmly established. It's not a stretch to suggest some competitive team might need catching help in the middle of the 2009 season, so Hall may find a job yet.
As for the Astros, their catcher competition going forward consists of a battle for two spots between Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles, and Rule 5 pick Lou Palmisano.
HOUSTON ASTROS-Agreed to terms with RHP Alberto Arias on a one-year contract.
Placed on restricted list: OF Jacob Priday
The Astros signed lefthander Neal Musser, who began the spring on Kansas Cityís 40-man roster, to a minor league contract. He passed a physical Thursday morning and threw a bullpen session with the Astros.
Musser, who was designated for assignment Feb. 19 and released Feb. 27, spent most of last year at Class AAA Omaha, going 2-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 36 games. He appeared in one game for the Royals, throwing a scoreless inning Sept. 28 against Minnesota.
According to Ed Price of Fanhouse, the Astros placed pitcher Fernando Nieve on waivers this week. Nieve is out of options, so the only way the Astros can send him to the minors is if no one claims him.
Nieve, 26, spent most of '08 at Triple A. He posted a 5.72 ERA in 72.3 innings there but did average 92.5 on this fastball in his Major League stint. He had Tommy John surgery in May of 2007.
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Brad James
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Astros optioned right-hander Felipe Paulino to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday morning prior to their game with the Tigers.
Paulino was in the mix for the fifth starter's job, but a subpar performance over three games (one start) ultimately eliminated him from competition. He allowed seven earned runs over five innings for a 12.50 ERA.
In his lone start, on March 9 at Washington, he allowed six runs on seven hits over two innings.
"He just needs innings," manager Cecil Cooper said. "That's what Paulino needs more than anything else -- innings. You miss a whole year [with an injury], you need innings. He's going to start, and just get innings."
The fifth-starter job is down to two candidates -- Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan, both of whom will likely receive regular starts for the remainder of the spring. With innings at a premium this time of year, Paulino's best route to preparing for the season is in Minor League camp.
"Other guys are getting stretched out here, and innings are coming a little more difficult to get," Cooper said. "He'll go [to Round Rock], get in routine and get his regular starts in on a regular basis. At some point, we're going to need him. That's what we told him -- go over there, continue to work and get innings."
The Astros also revealed that outfielder Jason Michaels will be limited to pinch-hitting for "a few days" due to discomfort in his left hamstring. Michaels has been fighting this injury for more than a week.
"It's something they don't want to linger during the season," Michaels said. "I've never had hamstring problems before so it's not like I'm prone to it. This is all new to me."
Cooper's goal is to keep Michaels sharp at the plate during his time away from the defensive side of his game.
"I'm told by the weekend, he'll be fine and ready to go," Cooper said. "He's just going to pinch-hit and we've still got 18 games or so. We've got time. He'll continue to get his at-bats.
"We want to limit things as much as possible. If he got three or four at-bats and all of sudden he's on base three times, that might not be good. We'll give him one shot to run the bases. If he gets a hit, maybe I might pinch-run for him. But I need to have him swinging the bat."
In other injury news, Alberto Arias, who took a line drive off his right hand during an appearance against the Yankees on Saturday, was scheduled to throw a light bullpen on Tuesday.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros made another round of cuts on Sunday morning, reassigning five veteran non-roster players to Minor League camp -- right-handers Clay Hensley and Danny Graves, lefty Neal Musser and infielders Matt Kata and John Gall.
General manager Ed Wade granted Graves permission to talk to other teams about possible openings on their Major League rosters. Graves had heard that the Padres are in need of veteran relievers, but he has no idea at this time if anything will come of that.
"I don't know if that's an option," said Graves, who has until Tuesday to accept the Astros' Minor League assignment. "I'm not really sure what I want to do yet. Coming into camp, this was the team I wanted to play for, and if it didn't work out here, then I felt like it was time for me to go home."
Graves had a 6.43 ERA over seven appearances, but all of his earned runs were given up across two outings. He yielded three runs in his first outing and three in his last, but in the five in between, he gave up just one run, which was unearned.
Innings run thin this time of the spring, when starters begin to pitch into the fifth and sixth, leaving few for the remainder of the relievers. As disappointing as it is not to make the team out of Spring Training, demotions also mean increased playing time, which is a welcome element for pitchers trying to get ready for the season.
Hensley will prepare to be a starter, but because he's versatile enough to pitch out of the 'pen as well, it's likely he'll be one of the first considered for a promotion if the Astros have a need this season.
"I need to get started getting stretched back out," Hensley said. "It was pretty good timing. You have to keep pitching. The last couple of weeks, the innings started going to the starters, which is normal. I need to start pitching."
Hensley allowed 10 earned runs over 7 2/3 innings spanning four games.
Musser didn't join the team until a couple of weeks ago, after he was designated for assignment by the Royals. Playing time was scarce, and in that respect, Musser, who made two appearances, wasn't caught off guard by his demotion.
"It's a tough part of the year to come in," Musser said. "They're already playing games -- there weren't a lot of innings to be had. Hopefully, I showed something that they liked, and I'll get another opportunity."
Gall and Kata were in the running for the utility-infielder job, but that competition is down to two: Edwin Maysonet and Jason Smith.
Kata hit .231 (6-for-26) over 13 games, and Gall hit .375 (9-for-24) in 16 games.
"I felt pretty good about my at-bats and my performance here," Gall said. "I've actually never had really good Spring Trainings. The last three years, [when] I was on the Cardinals' roster, I wish I would have hit the ball as well as I did this year. When you come in as a non-roster guy, you don't know what the situation is going to be.
"I've been playing for a long time, and I know what people think is going to happen in March isn't going to happen all year. I know I'm not in the grand plans, but I also know things change."
Kata also is optimistic that he'll be considered for a promotion should there be a need during the season.
"I feel I had quality at-bats during the spring," Kata said. "It was a situation where you just get outplayed. Guys stood out more than I did. When you're battling for a spot, you have to do something to stand out. I've done it before, been that guy. I think that's the situation where you just have to come and make an explosion, and I just didn't do it."
Manager Cecil Cooper commended both Kata and Gall for their professionalism and surmised that he hasn't seen the last of either one -- or any of the five, for that matter.
"Most of the time, your veteran guys are going to get a call during the summer at some point," Cooper said. "That's what you do. You see these guys in camp and you can tell what they can do so that you get familiar with them. Down the road, you might need them."
The Padres might be desperate for bullpen help, especially after losing Worrell for the season, but they can't be Danny Graves desperate, can they?
Ball High grad Brandon Backe will start the season on the disabled list but will still have a spot on the Houston Astros roster.
Backe injured his side in his third spring training appearance after slipping off the mound. According to MLB.comís Alyson Footer, the Astros were down to two choices regarding Backe ó put him on the disabled list or, if he had resumed pitching by April 1, release him and pay just a portion of his $1.55 million contract.
While Backe told Footer itís still a frustrating situation for him, being put on the DL allows him to get healthy and then attempt to win the No. 5 starting spot in the rotation from likely Russ Ortiz during the season.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Bud Norris left the Astros' Major League camp on Friday, but he probably won't be gone for long.
Norris didn't pitch his way onto the team this spring, but he accomplished something just as important -- he flew up the depth chart, and as soon as a need arises on the Major League level, the 24-year-old right-hander is going to be the first considered.
Norris, as a non-roster invitee, was reassigned to Minor League camp Friday morning, while catcher J.R. Towles, a member of the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A. The technical names are different, but they mean the same thing -- they were demoted from big league camp, as the Astros continue the process of whittling the Opening Day roster down to 25.
Norris did nothing but impress during his six weeks in Major League camp. He made eight appearances and had only one that he'd probably like to wipe from his record -- March 6 at Atlanta, when he allowed five runs over 1 1/3 innings.
"He had one blip on his resume one time," manager Cecil Cooper said. "It looked like he was a little revved up. Other than that, he was outstanding."
Norris will immediately begin the process of getting stretched out enough to be able to join Round Rock's rotation when the season starts April 9. Norris will throw three innings Saturday with a target pitch count of about 50 and go from there.
What Norris eventually becomes in the big leagues remains to be seen. Right now, his primary pitches are the fastball and slider, but if he can develop the changeup and make that an equally dominant pitch, he could be destined for the rotation. If he ends up as a two-pitch pitcher, he could emerge as a reliever, a la Chad Qualls, or perhaps Brad Lidge.
"Down the road this summer, he can help us," Cooper said. "He proved he can pitch at this level. I just told him to go down and work on his second and third pitch. He's been very impressive here in camp, electric stuff. He impressed us with the fact that he can pitch in the bullpen. He can go either way, and that's a good thing."
Norris was in good spirits after receiving the news of his demotion. As a bullpen candidate this spring, the right-hander realized he was competing for a job that wasn't available, considering the 'pen has been set since before everyone reported to camp in mid-February.
"They said at any time, there's going to be a lot of arms that go in and out of that bullpen at any point in the year, whether it be in the first three weeks or last three months," Norris said, after emerging from a closed-door meeting with Cooper, general manager Ed Wade and pitching coach Dewey Robinson. "[They said], 'Just be ready and keep working,' and that's exactly what I asked to come to camp with -- an opportunity. I'll be ready."
Towles wasn't surprised when he was called to the manager's office, considering he saw the writing on the wall once Ivan Rodriguez signed with the Astros. That acquisition pushed Humberto Quintero to the backup role and Towles right out of the picture.
"It wasn't a shock," Towles said.
Playing time was far less plentiful after Rodriguez joined the team, making it more imperative that Towles go to the Minor Leagues, where he'll likely step in as Round Rock's frontline catcher.
"They said they wanted me to get my at-bats," Towles said. "They said, 'You never know what can happen, so just go down there and work hard. Just keep doing what you're doing.'"
Towles hit .190 (4-for-21) over 11 games.
"I saw a guy who can definitely catch," Cooper said. "I don't think his skills are gone in that regard. I'd like to see a little more consistency with the bat. He did show some progress in his last outing. I just couldn't get him enough at-bats. When Pudge came, it changed the dynamics a little bit, and he wasn't getting many at-bats."
Kissimmee, FL (Sports Network) - The Houston Astros released veteran reliever Danny Graves from his minor league contract on Wednesday.
Graves, an 11-year veteran, posted a robust 6.43 earned-run average in seven relief appearances for the Astros this Spring and asked for his release.
In 518 career games -- 30 starts -- the 35-year old recorded a 43-44 record with a 4.05 ERA and 182 saves, all of which came during his stint in Cincinnati (1997-2005).
Graves also played for Cleveland (1996-97, 2006) and the New York Mets (2005).
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/6348531.htmlKISSIMEE, Fla. ó The Astros released veteran infielder/outfielder David Newhan today and reassigned righthanded pitcher Chad Paronto to minor league camp.
Newhan, 35, hit .260 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 64 games for the Astros last year and re-signed with the team as a non-roster free agent. He was hoping to land a backup infield spot, but his lack of experience at shortstop cost him the job.
Astros manager Cecil Cooper has said repeatedly he'd like the final infield spot to go to someone who can play shortstop. Newhan has never played shortstop in the majors.
"Kind of the only way that Coop's really communicated is through (the media)," Newhan said as he boxed his belonging at Osceola County Stadium. "It's just unfortunate. They've talked about needing a shortstop the whole time, but I wish I would have gotten a chance to at least screw that up.
"I never really got that opportunity. He told me I would, but the next day talking to (reporters) was like, 'You're like seventh on the list.' The way they communicated they made it clear I wasn't going to fit here and the guys they have in Triple-A, they have to play. I understand that."
Cooper said Edwin Maysonet and Jason Smith are vying for the final infield spot.
"We said that in the winter time and talked about it when we got down here," he said. "We expressed we needed a shortstop. Maysonet and Smith play short and the history of Newhan is he's never been a shortstop, never really played shortstop.
"The guy did a great job for us last year. He's a good pinch-hitter and great teammate, but he didn't fit this spring. We gave him some opportunities to play not only at second but the outfield, but we have six outfielders (in camp) right now. He just didn't fit."
Newhan has played 167 games in the outfield, 29 at third base, 57 at second base and three at first base in his career. He made a career-high 19 starts at second base last year for the Astros.
"I have the arm to play left and third and the range to play second," Newhan said. "(Playing short) something I haven't been asked to do much in my career because I've been playing with (Miguel Tejada) and Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. I feel like I could do it. That's their prerogative. They feel like they want to go with someone who's there a lot more, and I understand that."
Paronto pitched well this spring but has been slowed by a shoulder injury. He appeared in six games for the Astros last year, going 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA. He was 0-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 35 games at Class AAA Round Rock.
"He pitched well and he pitched pretty good for us last year when we called him up," Cooper said. "I know what he can do, and I told him, 'We've got a pretty set bullpen here. You go over there and you work and we'll keep in that one-, two-inning kind of deal. We're going to need pitching the summer, so get healthy and stay ready.'"
HOUSTON ASTROS -- Optioned RHP Alberto Arias and RHP Jeff Fulchino to Round Rock (PCL).
The Houston Astros elected not to pick up the 2010 contract option of veteran relief pitcher Doug Brocail, the club announced on Friday.
The 42-year-old Brocail appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen last season, going 1-0 with a 4.58 earned run average. However, he was slowed by several health issues during the campaign, causing him to have three stints on the disabled list.
The right-hander has compiled a 52-48 record with nine saves to go along with a 4.00 ERA over 626 big league games with San Diego, Houston, Detroit and Texas.
In other news, the club named Al Pedrique bench coach and Bobby Meacham first base coach to new manager Brad Mills' 2010 staff.
Pedrique will be entering his sixth season in the Houston organization. He came to the Astros in 2004 as a special assistant to the general manager and last season served as the team's minor league field coordinator.
Meacham spent 2009 as a coach with Philadelphia's Class A affiliate in Williamsport. He has previous major league coaching experience in a variety of roles with the New York Yankees, San Diego and Florida.
A pair of minor-league journeymen were among the four players the Astros added to their 40-man roster Friday.
Righthander Jose Valdez, a 26-year-old former Yankee farmhand who recently signed with the Astros as a minor-league free agent, was added to the 40-man roster along with fellow righthanded relievers Evan Englebrook, 27, Matt Nevarez, 22, and Henry Villar, 22.
Valdez, made 43 appearances between Class AA and Class AAA in the Yankees' organization, finishing a combined 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA and 10 saves.
Villar finished 3-4 with a 2.60 ERA and five saves this season at Class A Lexington.
Englebrook has been in the Astros' system since he was picked in the eighth round in 2004, reaching Class AA Corpus Christi and Class AAA Round Rock in 2009.
The Astros signed both Casey Daigle and Drew Meyer to minor league contracts.