Notes: Astacio, Scott among eight cuts

Notes: Astacio, Scott among eight cuts

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The 38th day of Spring Training was just not a very good one for the Houston Astros.

The big news on Saturday, of course, was Jeff Bagwell's announcement that his career is likely coming to an end. But prior to that revelation, eight players received the news that they were cut from big-league camp and sent to the Minors.

Right-handers Ezequiel Astacio, Joe Valentine and Dave Borkowski, outfielders Josh Anderson, Charlton Jimerson and Luke Scott, infielder Danny Klassen and catcher Hector Gimenez were cut from the roster, which now stands at 31.

The biggest surprise was Astacio, who began camp as a candidate to win the fifth starter job. He was one of only three hopefuls with big-league experience, but an inconsistent spring led to his demotion.

That leaves Taylor Buchholz, Carlos Hernandez, Fernando Nieve and on a more marginal level, Steve Sparks as the final candidates to win a roster spot. Sparks, a knuckleballer, will be considered for long relief.

"They said I wasn't consistent," Astacio said. "They wanted to give more of a chance to Nieve and Buchholz. But they don't want to forget me."

Manager Phil Garner emphasized he loves Astacio's stuff and isn't looking for the right-hander to learn a new pitch. Spring Training is coming to a close and Garner is running out of innings to allot to pitchers. In that respect, Garner hopes Astacio will take advantage of a starting position at Triple-A.

"I hoped that we could have brought him along a little better," Garner said. "I always fashioned myself as knowing a little something about pitching. When I get a guy that I think has a pretty good arm and we can't get him right on track, I feel like I failed a little bit. In his case, if he can get the ball over the plate early in the count and then off the plate later in the count, he'll be successful in the big leagues.

"We see inconsistency there. We'll see a couple of good pitches, and then he'll leave one over the plate. Then he starts getting picky. We need to have him consistent and we'll have him back here pitching. He's a guy that could be a bullpen answer for us, or he can start."

In Scott's case, it's a numbers game. The Astros have room for five outfielders, and Scott is behind Willy Taveras, Orlando Palmeiro, Jason Lane, Preston Wilson and Chris Burke, who will see time in the outfield and infield.

"It's tough news to take," Scott said. "It's a tough situation to be put in. There's nothing left to prove in the Minor Leagues, obviously. It's a lose-maintain situation. If I go down there and do well, I'm supposed to. I did last year. If I don't, it's a lose situation. It's a hard thing to be put in a situation where there's not much benefit from that aspect."

Said Garner: "We really like Luke and, ironically, the last two at-bats he had in Tampa the other night were absolutely the best swings I've ever seen him swing. It was a little less mechanical and very fluid. That, for me, is a swing that can produce a lot of good results."

spring training 2006
News and features:
• Lance Berkman at Astros camp:  350K
• Preston Wilson at camp:  350K
• Brad Ausmus at Astros camp:  350K
• Andy Pettite on training camp:  350K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

Fine tuning: Andy Pettitte hoped to throw six innings during his start against the Mets on Saturday, but a tired shoulder prompted him to leave after five.

"That's where I've been," he said. "I've been pushing it to fatigue each start and letting it take me where I may. I got a little tired after that fifth inning, and that's pretty much done."

Still, the results were good during his 69-pitch outing -- he yielded only one hit and did not allow a run. He plans to increase his pitch count to 80 the next time out, which will be his final start before he takes the mound April 4 against the Marlins.

"I'm extremely happy with my stuff today," he said. "I know it's Spring Training, and I really don't read anything into it, whether it's a good outing or a bad outing. But I felt like I was throwing everything pretty much for strikes, and if I do that, I think I'm going to be all right."

Springer: In his first Major League appearance of the spring, Russ Springer threw one scoreless inning. The right-hander, who has battled a rib cage strain for more than five weeks, estimated he'll pitch four more times during the exhibition season.

"I've managed to get out there in a real game," he said. "I gave up a little base hit up the middle. Other than that, I made some good pitches. I don't think I was favoring my ribs at all. Everything worked out."

Coming up: The Astros will travel to Viera on Sunday to meet the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Brandon Backe will face Nats right-hander John Patterson.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.