LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nate Freiman, the burly 6-foot-8 slugger who the Astros took a chance on in last year's Rule 5 Draft, was claimed off waivers by the Oakland A's on Saturday.
Freiman was in uniform for the Astros' game against the Braves on Saturday at Champion Stadium, but not for long. Houston manager Bo Porter told him in the dugout in the first inning he was headed to the West Coast.
"When I said it to him, he said with a sadness in his voice, 'So I'm not a Houston Astro anymore?'" Porter said. "I said, 'You are now an Oakland A and I wish you well.' It's one of those things. It's the nature of baseball."
As the Astros move toward the end of their stay in Florida, it became clear Freiman wasn't going to fit into their plans. General manager Jeff Luhnow said the club placed him on waivers to try to work out a possible trade with the Padres, but he didn't clear. He must stay on Oakland's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to San Diego.
"When we selected him in the Rule 5 in December, we thought we were getting a right-handed power guy who's had good success, and he's done everything to prove that's what he was," Luhnow said.
But with the Astros having acquired Chris Carter, who will start in left field and can DH, and the strong springs of corner infielders Brett Wallace and Brandon Laird, Freiman became a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Luhnow said he was impressed by what he saw in Freiman.
"He did a good job and he proved to us he is what we thought he was," he said. "Whether or not he's ready for the big leagues after being in Double-A, that's anybody's guess, but he did everything that we hoped he would. It's not a reflection on him, it's a reflection of we stayed healthy and we had a lot of options on the corners. When you talk about a player that is limited to first base or DH, there's not many roster spots available for those types of players."
The move leaves the Astros with 35 players in camp eight days ahead of Opening Day, and Laird may have bettered his chances of making the club. Luhnow said the Astros will make roster moves when necessary in the next week, but he doesn't expect a big wave of cuts at once.
"It clears up the picture a little bit," he said. "It doesn't mean anybody's guaranteed anything yet, because we still need to determine those last couple of spots with [Brandon] Barnes and J.D. [Martinez] and Laird, and there's still enough guys in the mix. Same thing on the pitching side with the last spot in the bullpen, the last spot in the rotation. We still have our work cut out for us but we have games every day, so we'll keep after it."
Meanwhile, relief pitcher Josh Fields, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in Rule 5 Draft, still has a good shot to make the club. Last year, the Astros carried Rhiner Cruz all season as a Rule 5 selection.
"It's a little easier with a relief pitcher than it is with a position player," Luhnow said. "We're still optimistic we can give him a few more looks and make the right decision for the club."