HOUSTON -- Nelson Figueroa was one of the biggest feel-good stories of Spring Training when, as the oldest player on the club, he made his first Opening Day roster and finally had a guaranteed contract and a spot in the starting rotation.
Less than six weeks into the regular season, Figueroa finds himself once again in career limbo after the Astros designated him for assignment following Monday's 6-1 loss to the Reds. The Astros have 10 days to trade, release or reassign him to the Minor Leagues. The Astros recalled left-hander Sergio Escalona from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Figueroa, 36, was claimed off waivers by the Astros last July and went 5-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 18 games, including 10 starts, for the Astros. He struggled in the rotation this year in five starts and was 0-3 with an 8.69 ERA in eight appearances overall.
"Any time a guy does what he did for us last year, he was able to really stabilize that rotation for us last year and threw the ball extremely well," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Hopefully, there's some way he can get it back. I don't know exactly what's going to happen with him. That will be his decision."
Figueroa, who allowed one run on three hits, two walks and three strikeouts over two innings on Monday, declined to comment on his future.
Escalona, who will be the first Astros player since Roy Oswalt to wear No. 44, was acquired from the Phillies in a trade for a Minor League player in January. He was 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and three saves in 13 relief appearances at Oklahoma City and will join the club Tuesday, giving Mills two lefties in the bullpen, joining Fernando Abad.
"He's been throwing the ball really well at Okie City," Mills said. "The benefit of having two lefties in the bullpen is going to be important."