Astros' Opening Day roster ready to go
25-man squad to include 12 pitchers, 13 position players
HOUSTON -- The final day of Spring Training is exciting for players who have been guaranteed spots since day one, but for others, the end of the exhibition season is anything but a happy time.
A range of emotions swept through the Astros' clubhouse on Saturday -- elation for the four who were informed they made the team, and disappointment for the two who did not.
Following their game with the Tigers Saturday, the Astros announced they reassigned infielder David Newhan to the Minor Leagues and informed catcher Humberto Quintero that after Opening Day rosters were officially filed on Sunday, they would designate him for assignment. At that point, they'll have 10 days to trade him, unconditionally release him or reassign him outright to the Minor Leagues. To reassign him to the Minors, they'll first have to pass Quintero through waivers.
The four who made the final cut are outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., infielder Tomas Perez, right-hander Brian Moehler and left-hander Wesley Wright.
For much of the spring, the Astros were seriously considering carrying three catchers on their Opening Day roster. Those plans were altered, however, because of the condition of two infielders.
Second baseman Kazuo Matsui will start the year on the disabled list and may not be ready to play for the first two weeks of the season. Geoff Blum is dealing with lingering effects from a sore heel, and while the injury is not debilitating, his health status could change on any given day. The Astros need infield protection, which is where Perez fits in. A jack of all trades, Perez, who is a veteran of 11 big league seasons, is viewed as much more necessary to the ballclub than an extra catcher.
"It was absolutely a need thing," general manager Ed Wade said. "When we talked to Q, we told him we view him as a big league catcher and certainly hope that we create a situation where we have a chance to get him back to Triple-A and have him available in case something would happen.
"This is Tomas Perez who ends up filling his spot and with his ability to play all four infield positions, particularly a pure shortstop, for the short time that it might be with Masui on the disabled list, [so] it makes sense for us to use the skill infielder versus the catcher."
The logic makes sense, but that didn't ease Quintero's disappointment after he received the news. The catcher, bleary-eyed and visibly upset, patiently waited for the media for almost 30 minutes at the request of the Astros front office.
"I don't feel good about it," Quintero said. "I think I proved I can play in the big leagues every day. I proved it."
Quintero showed up to Spring Training 30 pounds lighter -- in the best shape of his career -- and had a tremendous spring showing. He hit .341 over 22 games, driving in 11 runs.
"I did everything in the offseason and I proved in Spring Training I can play every day in the big leagues," he said.
Because Quintero has been outrighted to the Minor Leagues before, if he clears waivers, he has the right to either elect free agency or accept the Minor League assignment.
The mood was lighter in other corners of the clubhouse Saturday afternoon. In the last week to 10 days, it was a foregone conclusion that Cruz Jr., owner of a sparkling .364 spring batting average, would make the team. But manager Cecil Cooper wanted the official moment to be special for "Cheito" and his dad, first-base coach Jose Cruz, so when Cooper pulled Cruz from the game in the eighth inning, he said to the elder Cruz, "Go down and give him a hug."
"I think everybody knew at that point in time," Cooper said.
Cruz, who signed with the team as a non-roster invitee, said making the team was "very satisfying and a tremendous relief." He also joked he was glad he didn't give his dad a heart attack this spring, performance-wise.
While Cruz has played elsewhere in his career, he was always only a phone call away from his dad's frequent and helpful advice. The younger Cruz is now looking forward to receiving batting tips in person.
"I've got the guy here who knows me the best and can correct, and has been correcting me and improving me my whole life, in my father," Cruz said. "We executed what we practiced in the cage, and hopefully, I'll keep it going the whole year."
For the 23-year-old Wright, the news that he made the team just capped what has been a whirlwind month. The Rule 5 draftee was a long shot when Spring Training began, but by Saturday, the lefty had turned in the most consistent spring of all Houston pitchers.
After he called his mom, dad, aunts, uncles and select friends, Wright spoke about his elation to be one of the final seven who will comprise the Houston bullpen.
"Honestly, it's like a dream come true," he said. "This time last season, I was getting ready to go to Double-A. Here I am, getting ready to head out to San Diego. It's just really exciting right now."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.