HOUSTON -- The Astros' creative use of baseball's new financial rules concerning the First-Year Player Draft allowed them to sign what they believe is their third first-round talent. The club announced Monday it had signed fourth-round pick Rio Ruiz, a high school infielder selected in the fourth round out of California.
Terms of the agreement weren't disclosed, but a baseball source confirmed Ruiz received a signing bonus of $1.85 million to forgo his commitment to USC. That's more than five times higher than the prescribed slot recommendation of $360,200 for that pick.
The Astros signed top overall pick Carlos Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, for $4.1 million, which is well below the $7.2 million slot for the No. 1 pick. The savings allowed them to sign Ruiz and 41st overall pick, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. ($2.5 million), away from college.
"To get three players we believe were first-round caliber signed and out playing within a month of the Draft was our goal, and we've accomplished that," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We feel very good about continuing to add talent to the pipeline."
Surrounded by his parents, siblings and agent Scott Boras, Ruiz, a left-handed-hitting third baseman who's been compared numerous times to Eric Chavez, took batting practice with the Astros at Minute Maid Park. He'll begin his career in the Gulf Coast League.
"It's all surreal for me," Ruiz said. "Coming from a small town in Southern California and coming out here to big ol' Texas, this is all I've dreamed about. It's a big day for me and my family."
Ruiz missed most of his senior year at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, Calif., after undergoing a procedure last March to remove a blood clot, but he was cleared by doctors Thursday to resume baseball activities. He's eager to get his career underway.
"This is the game I love to play and the thing I love to do," he said. "It's all about playing hard and playing the game the right away, and that's what I have to do when I get out there. I have a lot of work to be done."
The Astros have signed 29 of their 41 picks, with second-round pick Nolan Fontana (University of Florida) among those still unsigned. Houston has signed 18 players selected in first 21 rounds.
Norris to rejoin rotation this week
HOUSTON -- Bud Norris is healthy and back with the Astros, joining the club prior to first pitch Sunday after making a Minor League rehab start Saturday at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Norris says his legs, including a sprained knee, are 100 percent.
"I went down there and got some good work in and the leg felt really good, and that's the No. 1 priority," said Norris, who will throw in the bullpen on Tuesday.
Norris will rejoin the rotation later this week, but it's not clear who will be out of the rotation. Rookie Dallas Keuchel threw a complete game in Norris' absence Saturday, but the entire rotation has pitched well over the last week. Astros starters had a 1.88 ERA in their last seven games entering Monday.
Astros manager Brad Mills said a decision will be made Wednesday about the rotation. Norris is still on the 15-day disabled list.
"The plans are pretty well in place and put together, but we're not going any further than that," Mills said. "We'll make an announcement on Wednesday regarding that scenario."
Altuve's hamstring better, but he's out of Monday's lineup
HOUSTON -- One day after leaving the game with a strained right hamstring, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was feeling better, but not in the lineup for the series opener against the Padres. Altuve leads all second baseman in batting average (.309) and hits (88).
"It's feeling good," Altuve said. "It will only be a couple of days, but that's it. It's not going to be a long time. I'm going to do everything like I do when I normally work out."
Altuve took batting practice Monday and fielded ground balls, but manager Brad Mills doesn't want to rush him back. Brian Bixler started at second base in place of Altuve and hit a leadoff homer against the Padres.
"It doesn't appear to be bothering him at all, but we're not going to have him chase chickens," Mills said. "We're not going to have him run sprints and do all those things. He's just going to take it easy and we will make sure he can run 100 percent before we put him back in there. We're thrilled he came in today and feels good."