Astros cut eight from spring roster
Club outrights McLemore, reassigns seven others to Minors
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Houston Astros cut eight players from their Major League Spring Training roster on Wednesday, outrighting left-hander Mark McLemore to Triple-A Round Rock and reassigning right-handers Mike DeJean and Carlos Hines, left-hander Stephen Randolph, outfielders Victor Diaz and Nick Gorneault and catchers J.R. House and Alberto Castillo to Minor League camp.
McLemore, one of three lefties competing for a spot in the bullpen, was taken off the 40-man roster. He began the spring as one of 11 candidates for the starting rotation, but control problems knocked him out of contention for that job last Thursday. He was moved to a bullpen role, but his 11 walks over 7 2/3 innings did little to merit a spot on the roster.
The same goes for Randolph, who walked nine over five innings. Manager Cecil Cooper had similar conversations with both lefties when he called him into his office on Wednesday afternoon.
"He didn't throw enough strikes for us," Cooper said, first referring to McLemore. "You can't be left-handed and not get out left-handed hitters. We tried to soften it as much as possible, but also tell him the truth. You have to be honest with guys -- just not enough strikes for us. Last year, his ERA was pretty good, pretty good numbers, but primarily against right-handed hitters. We need him to get out left-handers."
Asked if he was surprised by the news, McLemore answered, "I'm not. I haven't thrown the ball well enough this spring to warrant any kind of surprises."
Asked why control was such an issue for him this spring, he admitted he might have been trying too hard.
"I think I put a lot of extra pressure on myself, knowing I was coming into spring knowing I have a little more opportunity than I've had in past years," he said. "I had something more to lose, and I put extra pressure on myself and got behind too often."
Regarding Randolph, Cooper's reasoning was the same -- not enough strikes.
"[He was] constantly out of the zone a lot with his fastball," Cooper said. "He has a great changeup, and so does McLemore, but not enough strikes. We need guys to throw strikes. That's what we told them."
The lone lefty still in contention for a bullpen spot is Rule 5 draftee Wesley Wright, who entered Wednesday night's game with the 1.35 ERA over 6 2/3 innings. Wright must either make the team out of Spring Training or be offered back to the Dodgers. Right-hander Doug Brocail will also be called upon to face left-handers out of the 'pen.
"We're going to keep looking at [Wright]," Cooper said. "He'll keep getting that opportunity to go out there. He's way more consistent than guys we've run out there."
Of the eight players sent to Minor League camp, only the 37-year-old DeJean has an opt-out clause in his contract. If another club offers the right-hander a job, general manager Ed Wade said he would let DeJean go.
"I talked to Mike and told him we think there's opportunities here for him to come back," Wade said. "At the same time, concerning his veteran status, we'd understand if he wanted to go some place else. Realistically, if something developed before [March] 30th, we'd be flexible with allowing him to go."
DeJean had shoulder surgery in 2006 and spent the entire 2007 season pitching in the Rockies' Minor League system in attempt to make a comeback. He started off well this spring, throwing a scoreless inning in each of his first four outings. His only blip arrived in his fifth appearance, when he allowed five runs to the Reds.
"I need to see a little bit more arm strength, a little more consistency in the zone," Cooper said. "He needs to try to get that part worked out. I know he worked on some mechanical things, but it didn't come. It's taking a longer time to come."
DeJean has until Thursday to decide whether to accept the Minor League assignment or opt for free agency.
"We'll see what happens," he said. "I still want to be an Astro. I respect the heck out of Cecil Cooper -- he and I have known each other for a while. Ed Wade's a really good guy, upfront and honest. He has a tough job. The bottom line is, I feel I can help the Astros immediately, right now, in whatever capacity they need me.
"With Ed reassuring me that he wouldn't stop me from going somewhere else if another job arises, that obviously makes it a lot easier decision for me."
The Astros made one other roster move on Wednesday, placing right-hander Felipe Paulino on the 15-day disabled list. The right-hander is expected to miss at least two months with a pinched nerve in his triceps area.
The Astros have 35 players remaining in big league camp with 11 exhibition games left on the schedule.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.