The Astros announced on Friday that both lefthanded reliever Darin Downs and shortstop Gregorio Petit had cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Fresno.
Darin Downs cleared waivers, outrighted to Triple A; Gregorio Petit accepted outright assignment to Triple A; both players invited to ST.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) December 26, 2014
Astros 40 man now at 39.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) December 26, 2014
Both players appeared in the majors last season. Downs, who's 30th birthday is Friday, threw in 45 games for the Astros, totaling 34 2/3 innings with an ERA of 5.45 and 27 strikeouts with 19 walks. Downs pitched two previous seasons for the Detroit Tigers and now has thrown in 92 career MLB games.
Petit, 30, had his birthday 16 days ago, so it's not nearly as cold-hearted a move to announce this roster move for him. Petit played in 37 games with Houston, totaling 100 plate appearances and hitting .278/.300/.423 with two home runs, nine RBIs and eight doubles.
Petit played 19 games at shortstop and 12 games at third base for the Astros in limited duty as a utility infielder after Enrique Hernandez was traded to the Marlins.
Downs was likely on the outside looking in with the bullpen situation. Houston has spots locked up for Chad Qualls, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Josh Fields and Tony Sipp. That leaves Jake Buchanan, Kevin Chapman, Luis Cruz, Samuel Deduno, Michael Foltynewicz, Will Harris, Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski on the 40-man roster without a set rotation or bullpen spot.
Assuming that Wojo goes to Triple-A as rotation depth, that leaves two spots for Chapman, Deduno, Folty, waiver claim Will Harris and possibly White. Harris seems to have an inside track on a spot, too, as he was claimed off waivers before 40-man rosters were set for the Rule 5 draft. Of course, the Astros pulled a similar move in 2012 when they plucked Sam Demel off waivers from Arizona and still waived him at the end of spring training.
Still, Downs was probably behind Chapman and Sipp as lefty relievers in the bullpen. As Drellich says, Downs has a shot to be a lefty specialist again if he wins the job over those two in Kissimmee. But, he's on the outside looking in currently.
What do you think? How is Houston positioned in the bullpen now? Does this tell us anything about who breaks camp in the relief corps? WIth a roster spot open, could another move be pending? Will Houston clear up some of that catcher depth in a trade?