Dominguez, Correa among Astros cuts
The Astros trimmed their active spring roster by eight players Sunday morning, including top prospect Carlos Correa, a shortstop, and Matt Dominguez, who was the team’s starting third baseman the past two years.
Correa, the former No. 1 overall Draft pick who is a budding star, was reassigned to the Minor Leagues and will begin the season at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros also informed relievers Darin Downs and James Hoyt, infielder Gregorio Petit and catcher Tyler Heineman they wouldn’t make the team, but would remain on the big league roster through the end of camp.
The Astros also informed reliever Sam Deduno he had made the club as a long reliever, leaving one spot open in the bullpen. Dominguez, along with pitcher Jake Buchanan and catcher Max Stassi, were optioned to the Minor Leagues.
“This is a challenging time because we’ve got a lot of players that have stepped up and played well and we have tough decision to make,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “These aren’t the last ones. We feel good about the squad we’re going to be able to take to Houston to start the season with and we feel good about the protection and the players that we’re going to have to Triple-A that are going to be available to us should an injury occur or a need arise.”
Dominguez started 309 games for the Astros the past two years, mostly at third base. He hit .241 with 21 homers and 77 RBIs in his first full season in 2013 and last year slumped to .215 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs, which is why the Astros traded for Luis Valbuena to play third this year.
Dominguez came to camp competing for a backup role, which including playing some first base, and hit .250 with two RBIs in 36 at-bats, but was behind Jonathan Villar.
“One of our goals this offseason was to give ourselves more options and out infield production last year, with the exception of [Jose] Altuve, was below what we really needed to compete in this division, so we went out and addressed upgrades at shortstop and options at third base and first base,” Luhnow said. “We’re seeing the results of that. Valbuena had an amazing spring so far and is basically going to be our third baseman and that leaves Matt in competition with some of the other guys for an extra spot on the roster, a spot off the bench, and right now we feel like there’s a couple of other guys ahead of him and he needs to play every day. Right now he’ll go down to Fresno and play third and play some first and be ready when the need arises.”
Correa has done nothing but impress in his second big league camp. He hit .341 with two homers and five RBIs this spring and was terrific on defense. He has yet to play above Class A, so getting him some reps at Double-A is the goal.
“Carlos is going to be a star player in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of time,” Luhnow said. “Having never had an at-bat in Double-A, he needs to go get some regular work in the high Minors. He did a great job for us on the field as well as off the field and I think he’s got a lot of fans in the organization and he impressed the big league staff, which is what you want as a young player.”
Deduno, claimed off waivers in August, will be the team’s long relief man. He’s appeared in 74 big league games (42) starts and is 16-19 with a 4.20 ERA, including a 3.12 ERA in five games (one start) with Houston last year.
“A.J. talked to him and he was excited because when he came in the office he was a little nervous,” Luhnow said. “He had a big smile on his face when he left the office this morning.”