© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

11/26/08 4:04 PM EST

Newhan becomes free agent

Backup infielder refuses assignment to Astros' Triple-A team

Infielder David Newhan has refused an assignment to Triple-A Round Rock, making him a free agent.

Newhan, who was signed by the Astros in January, hit .260 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 104 at-bats in 2008 as a left-handed pinch-hitter and backup second baseman. He also played 60 games in Triple-A, batting .308 with nine homers.

The Astros are left with veteran Geoff Blum and youngsters Tommy Manzella, Edwin Maysonet and Drew Sutton as backup infielders on the 40-man roster. Blum filled in at every infield position last season. Maysonet, who was given a September look, played sparingly at second base and shortstop. Manzella and Sutton have never played in the Majors.

Mark Loretta, another versatile infielder, previously filed for free agency and is not expected back. That leaves an opening for the Opening Day roster that will be fought for in Spring Training if the club doesn't sign an established replacement.

Newhan is a career .253 hitter with the Padres, Phillies, Orioles, Mets and Astros since 1999, never playing more than 100 games in a season. The A's took him in the 17th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft.

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.