Results tagged ‘ released ’

J.D. Martinez: “I’m sad to leave Houston”

J.D. Martinez, who was called up straight from Double-A the day after Hunter Pence was traded nearly three years ago and had a terrific first month in the Major Leagues, saw his tenure with the Astros come to an end Saturday.

The Astros released the 26-year-old outfielder, who had struggled to get on track offensively this spring without routine playing time. They team also announced it had optioned left-hander Darin Downs to Triple-A and reassigned first baseman Japhet Amador and infielder Gregario Petit to Triple-A.

As Martinez packed up his things in the Osceola County Stadium clubhouse early Saturday, a steady stream of teammates came over and exchanged hugs, handshakes and well-wishes.

“It’s alright,” Martinez said. “I’m not really down about it. It is what it is. Obviously, Houston is the team that brought me up and where I want to be. Everything happens for a reason.”

Martinez, who was vying for a spot in left field or right field, hit .167 with one RBI in 18 at-bats this spring. He was taken off the 40-man roster prior to camp, and the Astros have younger players like L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman and top prospect George Springer competing for playing time in the outfield as well.

“We had a lot of history with J.D. and he’s got some value as a right-handed power hitter, outfielder,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We really feel like to a certain extent we’re a victim of our own success. As we continue to develop young talent, we’re going to end up not having room for some players who fit in in the past and could fit in with other clubs. We wish him the best. We still think he’s a Major League player. It’s just not a fit for our club right now.”

Martinez spent parts of three years in the Major Leagues with the Astros, hitting .251 with 24 homers and 126 RBIs. His best year was his rookie season of 2011 when he hit .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs and started 52 of the final 55 games after being called on July 29 to replace Pence in the lineup.

He drove in 28 runs in August 2011, which ranked second in the National League and were a record for an Astros rookie in any month.

“Obviously, I’m sad to leave Houston,” he said. “I love the fans and players and everyone here. I feel like they have a lot of guys coming up, and if there’s not room for me to get at-bats and not room for me to play, it’s best to let me go and not try to hold me back, and I commend them for that and I thank them for that.”

Martinez knew he had to play winter ball to post some numbers. He batted .312 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 24 games in Venezuela last off-season. The experience was a good one, even though he lost 16 pounds because of sickness.

Still, with Springer and Hoes getting time in right field along, Martinez’s at-bats were limited this spring.

“I feel that it was very tough, given my situation, of how I was going into games and stuff,” he said. “I know how it works. I know in Venezuela I hit the ball really well down there. Let’s say I have a new respect for guys who come off the bench every day. That’s not easy to do.”

Martinez hopes to be able to land with another team.

“Jeff was telling there’s a lot of teams that were looking around,” he said. “I was supposed to make a lot of money in Triple-A and because of that it’s kind of spooked teams away. Now it will be a lot easier to get picked up type of deal.”

The move with Petit mean that Marwin Gonzalez and Cesar Izturis are left battling for a backup middle infield spot, and Downs’ potion leaves Raul Valdes and Kevin Chapman as the only two lefties remaining in the bullpen.

“We still have a couple of cuts to make and it’s starting to come into focus and we still have enough games to make the final determinations,” Luhnow said.

Hernandez surprised by release from Astros

Livan Hernandez told MLB.com on Friday he was surprised by the Astros decision to release him. The veteran right-hander signed with Houston on Jan. 31 and appeared to have a great shot of landing a rotation spot before struggling in the spring.

“Yeah, it was surprising,” he said. “It’s a business and it’s baseball. I was very surprised when this happened. It’s tough to pitch like that, too. It’s the decision they made and I’m very happy for the chance. There’s a lot of good people in the organization, a lot of good young players and great people. Everyone in the organization is very professional.”

The two-time All-Star made five starts for the Astros during Spring Training, going 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 16 innings. In his 16-year career, the durable Hernandez has led the league in innings pitched three times and in games started twice. He’s never been on the disabled list.

Hernandez said he would like to keep playing.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “There’s 30 teams in the league. I’m 37 years old and I don’t want to retire. I never have been hurt in my career, so why do I have to retire if I feel good?”

With Hernandez out of the mix, the Astros now have three young pitchers battling for the final two spots in the rotation – Jordan Lyles, Kyle Weiland and Lucas Harrell, who pitched five strong innings earlier this week to bolster his chances.

The Astros have 33 players left in camp, including Sergio Escalona (who will miss the whole season after undergoing Tommy John surgery):

Here are the players in Astros camp (non-roster players in italics):

Pitchers –Fernando Abad (LHP), David Carpenter, Rhiner Cruz, Sergio Escalona (LHP), J.A. Happ (LHP), Lucas Harrell, Wilton Lopez, Jordan Lyles, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Fernando Rodriguez, Wandy Rodriguez (LHP), Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland, Wesley Wright (LHP).

Catchers — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Landon Powell, Chris Snyder.

Infielders — Jose Altuve, Matt Downs, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Jed Lowrie, Brett Wallace.

Outfielders — Brian Bogusevic, Travis Buck, J.D. Martinez, Justin Ruggiano, Jordan Schafer, J.B. Shuck.

Astros release Duke, Cust

Left-handed pitcher Zach Duke and outfielder Jack Cust, a pair of veterans trying to find a home in Houston, were both released by the team Tuesday morning in a move that certainly was no surprise.

Cust, who signed a one-year, non-guaranteed, $600,000 contract with the Astros with an option for 2013, and Duke, who was on a Minor League contract, both struggled mightily this spring. Cust had one hit in 25 spring at-bats and never appeared in the outfield because of discomfort in his left elbow.

“The thing with Cust, we weren’t able to use him in the outfield all of spring really,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “He got to play a couple of innings of a ‘B’ game out there and the bat wasn’t there and what we had hoped. We know he’s got the ability to do that, but it wasn’t able to show in the 30-something plate appearances we gave him,”

Duke was 0-3 with an 11.30 ERA in four games (three starts) for the Astros this spring and had allowed 25 hits and 18 runs in 14 1/3 innings.

Duke was a candidate for the fifth starter spot, leaving youngsters Kyle Weiland and Jordan Lyles battling for that position. The moves leave the Astros with 39 players in camp.

“Any time you have to give a release to somebody, that’s a difficult thing to do,” Mills said. “In Duke’s case, we thought that the location of his pitches wasn’t quite where it needed to be and then his breaking ball wasn’t quite the breaking ball we thought we could transfer over into our bullpen.

“We thought his sinker was on top of his game, and the command wasn’t there. It just didn’t translate into a starter for us, and with that breaking ball being so inconsistent we weren’t able to use him out of the bullpen.”

Other news from Tuesday morning:

  • Center fielder Jordan Schafer will be held out of hitting drills completely Tuesday to give his left hand more time to heal, and there’s a chance he could be given Wednesday of as well. Schafer injury his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield March 18 and irritated a nerve in the hand.
  • Right-hander Bud Norris said he could have pitched Wednesday, but the Astros are giving him two extra days. Norris says he’ll be ready to go on Friday against the Braves in Kissimmee

Tuesday’s lineup vs. Tigers:

CF J.B. Shuck

SS Jed Lowrie

RF Brian Bogusevic

1B Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

DH Chris Snyder

LF Matt Downs

C Jason Castro

2B Jose Altuve

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

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