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Astros sign four to minor league deals

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HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Astros have signed the following minor league free agents with invitations to Major League Spring Training: outfielder Trevor Crowe, left-handed pitcher Sergio Escalona, and right-handed pitchers Edgar Gonzalez and Jose Valdez. The announcement was made by Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow.

Crowe, 29, split his 2012 campaign in the Indians and Angels minor league system, combining to hit .281 (87x310) with a .349 on-base percentage, 19 doubles, 29 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 84 games. He finished his season at Triple A Salt Lake in Los Angeles' system, hitting .301 (49x164) with 10 doubles, 16 RBI and 10 steals in 42 games. The switch-hitting outfielder has played in parts of three Major League seasons in his career, all coming with Cleveland (2009-11). He owns a career .245 (160x653) Major League average with 34 doubles and 29 steals in 205 games. A former first-round draft pick (14th overall) by Cleveland in 2005, Crowe has played all three outfield positions in his Major League career.

Escalona, 28, spent the entire 2012 campaign on the Astros disabled list while recovering from left elbow surgery. Following the season, he was outrighted off the Astros 40-man roster on Nov. 1. The left-handed reliever had a successful 2011 campaign with the Astros, posting a 2-1 record and a 2.93 ERA (9ER/27.2IP) in 49 games, while limiting left-handed hitters to a .188 (12x64) average. Escalona has had a couple stints on Major League rosters for Philadelphia (2009) and Houston (2011), and has appeared in 63 Major League games, posting a 3.48 ERA (16ER/41.1IP).

Gonzalez, 29, went 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA (14ER/25IP) in six starts for the Astros this season after having his contract purchased from Triple A Oklahoma City on Sept. 3. Gonzalez was also outrighted off the Astros 40-man roster on Nov. 1. The right-hander has pitched in parts of eight Major League seasons with Arizona (2003-08), Oakland (2009), Colorado (2011) and Houston (2012).

Valdez, 29, pitched to a 2.25 ERA (3ER/12IP) in 12 relief appearances after being a September call-up for the Astros this season. He was outrighted off the club's 40-man roster on Nov. 1. The hard-throwing right-hander spent the majority of his 2012 season with Oklahoma City, where he posted a 4.95 ERA (24ER/43.2IP) with 21 saves in 46 relief appearances.

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