Astros news and notes

The recent departures of first baseman Brett Wallace and Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco from their assignments at Escogido of the Dominican Winter League came only a few days before both men were scheduled to return to the U.S.

Wallace, who was released Thursday, was supposed to leave the Dominican on Sunday, and DeFrancesco, who was managing Escogido, was due to return about the same time. It’s not surprising to see players or managers cut loose. Astros third base coach Dave Clark was let ago about a year ago while managing Licey in the Dominican, and former Houston infielder Tommy Manzella was released by Aguilas Cibaenas a year ago.

“Brett’s been struggling down there,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “It’s a very competitive environment down there. The organizations and fans have high expectations and it’s a short window in which you have to produce. It’s not uncommon for player changes to made and managerial changes to be made.”

Wallace hit .173 with two homers and nine RBIs in 52 at-bats.

Elsewhere, second baseman Jose Altuve entered Monday hitting .403/.437/.524 for Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League. He had 13 strikeouts in 124 at-bats. Outfielder Brian Bogusevic was hitting .291 with two homers and eight RBIs and a .384 on-base percentage for Aguilas of the Dominican Winter League.

For all of the Astros’ winter ball stats, click here.

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The Salt River Rafters, which was home to the Astros’ prospects in the Arizona Fall League, won the league title last weekend with a 9-3 win over the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL Championship Game on Saturday.

Astros catcher Jason Castro hit .289 with four RBIs and eight walks in 12 games (38 at-bats) for Salt River as he continues to his path to recovery after missing all of last season following knee surgery.  Outfielders Jay Austin (.311 batting average) and Jake Goebbert (.247) also competed in Arizona.

“I texted Jason after the game and congratulated him and told him to get some relaxation and told him to get ready for Spring Training,” Wade said.

Complete stats for the Rafters can be found by clicking here.

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Even though the Astros are headed to the American League, likely in 2013, Wade said the club hasn’t had any discussions about implementing the designated hitter more at the lower level of the Minor Leagues.

“We haven’t really talked about those types of adjustments,” he said. “Our focus still has to be roster composition for 2012. We’re clearly aware of the differences between the two leagues, but I don’t believe they’re as pronounced as some would make them out to be. We’ll prepare when the time comes.”

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Spring Training is only three months away. The Astros will hold their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 20 in Kissimmee, Fla., and the first full-squad workout will be Feb. 26.

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