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Emotional Ensberg is set free

Ensberg let go by Astros

HOUSTON -- Former All-Star third baseman Morgan Ensberg was designated for assignment Sunday as the Astros cleared the way for new acquisition Ty Wigginton to be their starter at third.

It was an emotional parting for all parties concerned.

"I understand this is just how the game goes," Ensberg said. "We sign up for it. And I was expecting something to happen, although I didn't know for sure what.

"The toughest part for me is that I met some just great guys here in Houston. Adam Everett is one of my best friends and will be for life. And I got to play with a Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio."

Everett was just as moved as he gave Ensberg a hug while they talked about the sudden news.

"It's tough," Everett said. "We came up together and we did everything together on the road. Our families are really close.

"It's just going to be tough not seeing him, not having somebody to embrace when things are going badly. I guess we really just take it for granted that things like this won't happen. It really hasn't hit me yet and probably won't until I come in here and he's not here."

The Astros, who on Saturday acquired Wigginton from Tampa Bay in exchange for reliever Dan Wheeler, didn't make the move lightly.

"It's always hard to make a move like this," manager Phil Garner said. "Just a couple of years ago, he was an All-Star and a big part of the team that went to the World Series.

"But this may be good for Morgan in the long run. It opens the door for him to move into something better. Hopefully, it will work out well for him. We wish nothing but the best for him and his family."

Astros general manager Tim Purpura said the designation gives the team 10 days to either trade Ensberg, send him to the Minors or release him, and Purpura hopes a trade can be worked out.

"We told Morgan sending him to the Minors is not an option," Purpura said. "We sincerely hope we can find a good place for him to play, so we will see if we can make a trade.

"These are the tough [moves]. He's one of the guys who was a ninth-round pick, he fought his way through our Minor Leagues, came up and had some success. But then he hit some rough spots the last couple of years. It's tough to let a guy like that go."

Ensberg, once considered one of the brightest prospects in the Astros organization, had a meteoric, albeit short, rise with the team. He came up briefly in 2001 and 2002 before sticking with the club in 2003, a season in which he hit .291 with 25 home runs, tying Doug Rader for the most in franchise history by a third baseman.

The next season he dipped to .275, but in 2005 he batted .283 with 36 home runs and made the All-Star team as he helped the Astros to reach the World Series.

In 2006, he developed right shoulder problems that affected his game and he dipped to a .235. This year, he was hitting .232, although he seemed to be pulling out of the slump when he hit .319 in July.

"Once I got hurt, just as a plot, that's when things went south," Ensberg said. "I guess I never got all the way back."

Jim Carley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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