HOUSTON -- The Astros brought in outfielder Rick Ankiel this past offseason with hope he could provide veteran leadership while adding some much-needed offensive production. He was a positive presence in a young clubhouse, but the bat never came around.
Ankiel and fellow outfielder Fernando Martinez were designated for assignment on Monday, likely bringing an end to their tenure in Houston. The Astros also optioned infielder Brandon Laird to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe and infielder/outfielder Jimmy Paredes, as well was reinstating outfielder J.D. Martinez from the disabled list.
Crowe, J.D. Martinez and Paredes will join the Astros before Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Angels at Minute Maid Park.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had high hopes for Ankiel, whom he watched blossom into a potent outfielder while both were with the Cardinals. Ankiel hit just .194 in 25 games this season with five homers, 11 RBIs and a whopping 35 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.
"Rick Ankiel is a class guy, and I really like him both as a baseball player and as a person," Luhnow said. "We brought him in here to help our younger kids, to mentor them and help out on the field. I really appreciate everything he did for us. The reality is the team is not where we wanted to be at this point and we feel like outfield is one of our weakest positions, and we wanted to give some guys who are having some success at Triple-A a chance to continue that up here."
Ankiel has enough service time to refuse a Minor League assignment, at which point he would probably be released. The Astros have 10 days to decide what to do with Fernando Martinez, who will be released, traded or sent to the Minor Leagues if he passes through waivers.
Luhnow met with manager Bo Porter on Monday at Minute Maid Park and went over the roster, and the general manager said the moves were made to fill some specific needs and not intended as a shake-up of a club that's lost 10 of 11 games and is 8-24.
"We sat down today and really talked about the mix of the team and what was available to us in Triple-A," Luhnow said. "This is more of a testament about how Jimmy's been doing in Triple-A, how Trevor's been doing in Triple-A and wanting J.D. back. We weren't making changes for the sake of making changes."
Luhnow acknowledged that the club also talked about the status of struggling starting pitcher Philip Humber, who has a 16.20 ERA in his last four starts. The Astros have already bumped Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard from the rotation since the start of the season, and Humber's status remains unclear.
"That's really a decision Bo needs to make, and I'm sure he'll make it at the appropriate time," Luhnow said. "We believe Humber is a Major League pitcher and can add value to our team. For now, no decision has been made about any different roles on the pitching side at this point."
Astros hitters have been striking out at a record pace, with outfielder Chris Carter leading the Majors with 51 strikeouts and designated hitter/first baseman Carlos Pena ranking in the top 10 in the American League.
"The profile of our team being a feast-or-famine type team, we felt we needed different types of players," Luhnow said, "and with Robbie Grossman there now and Paredes coming, hopefully the numbers in Triple-A are a reflection of the success [Paredes] can have up here. It will change the mix a little bit."
Paredes, Crowe and Grossman -- called up late last month -- are all switch-hitters, which will allow Porter to find the right matchups more often. Luhnow admitted the Astros had to do something to address the strikeouts. J.D. Martinez and outfielder Brandon Barnes hit from the right side of the plate.
"With [Fernando] Martinez, Ankiel, Carter and Pena, we had too many guys that were potential strikeout or home runs guys," Porter said. "That wasn't a mix that was working for us."
Crowe is hitting .300 (33-for-110) in 29 games for Oklahoma City through 29 games this season, having clubbed two homers and driven in 14 runs while stealing a team-high 11 bases. Crowe, a former first-round Draft pick of the Indians who's appeared in 205 Major League games, was signed by the Astros this offseason as a Minor League free agent.
After 29 games with Oklahoma City, Paredes entered Monday with a 1.040 on-base-plus slugging percentage and a team-high .376 (41-for-109) average that's fifth in the Pacific Coast League. Paredes has started at third base and in right field this season for the RedHawks and remains raw on defense. Luhnow said he would serve in more of a utility role.
J.D. Martinez, out since April 20 with a right knee sprain, hit .300 in five games on a rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi. He played in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the Astros before heading to the disabled list.
Fernando Martinez, who had trouble staying healthy, was hitting .182 with a homer and three RBIs in 11 games, while Laird was batting .200 with two homers and five RBIs in 11 games.