DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Perhaps more than any other players in Astros camp this year, shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and pitcher Rhiner Cruz are under the microscope, thanks to their Rule 5 status.
The Astros took Cruz off the Mets roster with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft and acquired Gonzalez from the Red Sox, who took him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Cubs. Both of them must stay on the Major League roster for the entire season or the Astros will risk losing them.
"You lose a lot of flexibility by keeping the Rule 5 guys and that's something you have to put into the equation," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "You would imagine a team that lost 106 games last year would be able to find a spot [for a Rule 5 pick]. But we've got a lot of guys here we're going to be evaluating and we'll see what happens. To keep two is something very few teams are able to do."
Gonzalez, who started Saturday against the Blue Jays, is a polished defensive player who split the 2011 season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, hitting a combined .288 in 124 games with four home runs and 39 RBIs.
Cruz is a power arm who spent the 2011 season in the Mets farm system, starting at Class A Port St. Lucie (2-1, 2.77 ERA) before being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he was 3-2 in 36 relief appearances with a 4.14 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 39 walks. Control has been an issue early in Astros camp, too.
"He's got a good arm, but can he throw enough strikes?" Luhnow said. "He knows that and we know that, and our scouts felt he had turned the corner a little bit last year towards the end of winter ball, and we need to see evidence with that for us to be comfortable with keeping him on the roster all year."