03/14/11 6:29 PM ET
Clemens among 14 cut by Astros
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
It was the first cut day this spring prior to Houston's game against the Phillies. And though it's never easy, the first batch offered little in the way of surprises.
With the Spring Training schedule continuing to wind down and Brad Mills' club having just completed a critical evaluation stretch of five games in three days, the Astros whittled their list of camp attendees by 14.
Reassigned to Minor League camp were left-hander Douglas Arguello; infielders Koby Clemens, Brian Dopirak, Jiovanni Mier and Jose Carlos Thompson; catcher Rene Garcia; right-hander Sammy Gervacio; and outfielders Jon Gaston and J.D. Martinez.
Optioned to the Minors were right-handers David Carpenter, Cesar Carrillo, Jorge De Leon and Arcenio Leon and infielder Jimmy Paredes.
The Astros now have 49 players in camp.
"We've had so many split squads," Mills said, "and after this split-squad [game] yesterday, we had to pare it down a little bit."
The most intriguing name on the list is Clemens, son of former Astros great Roger Clemens. The 24-year-old Clemens was one of the first players to arrive in camp, but struggled in Grapefruit League play, getting just two hits in 23 at-bats while striking out eight times.
Clemens, an eighth-round Draft pick in 2005, hit .241 with 26 homers and 85 RBIs in 127 Double-A games last year. Mills sees promise after Clemens' first big league camp, but also room for growth.
"The bat speed he has is pretty special," the Astros' skipper said. "You don't just teach that type of bat speed. That comes with ability. And he has really improved over at first base.
"He works so hard, and he's got such a great attitude that [if] he keeps doing those things, good things are going to happen."
Figueroa mixing it up as he eyes starter job
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Nelson Figueroa's ticket to the Opening Day roster may hinge on which part of the pitching rubber he's standing on.
Or at least it could help, he believes.
Prior to Monday's game against the Phillies at Osceola County Stadium, Figueroa figured he'd take the suggestion of Astros pitching coach Brad Arnsberg to re-explore pitching from the first-base side -- something he did early in his career. So he warmed up from the first-base side and then translated it into the game.
The stats suggest it didn't yield positive results. Figueroa gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks during a 7-6 loss against his former team, just as the race for the Astros' final rotation spot continues to heat up.
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As Figueroa explains, pitching from the third-base side worked better for him as a reliever, because it allowed him to warm up his breaking ball and fastball better and know where it was going. On the other side, he can use his other pitches with more margin for error.
"I've been a strike thrower my whole career," Figueroa said, "so I'm really always trying to get the most out of what I'm able to do."
Figueroa's spring ERA is 5.00 through nine Grapefruit League innings. On Sunday, fifth-starter candidate Ryan Rowland-Smith started against the Tigers -- giving up a run in three innings -- and other hopefuls Aneury Rodriguez, Jordan Lyles and Lance Pendleton are all slated to throw on Tuesday against the Orioles.
"We've been evaluating all the guys, and we'll continue to do so," Mills said. "We're just going through the process to see where we are."
Concerns eased regarding Wandy's shoulder
KISSIMEE, Fla. -- Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez didn't sound too worried about the mild shoulder tendinitis that scratched him from his upcoming Tuesday start on Monday morning, and that in turn eased the mind of his manager.
"Right now, it's not very high," Astros skipper Brad Mills said about the level of concern for Rodriguez's most recent ailment. "When he came in today, I asked if he'd come into the office and visit, and he did and we sat and talked a little bit, and as long as he's not concerned, I'm not concerned as much."
Mills didn't get to speak with the left-hander Sunday, when the injury was announced, because he was in Lakeland, Fla., to watch the Astros as part of a split-squad doubleheader. Rodriguez will be shut down for a few days, and Mills said the plan is to skip just that one start and have him make his next turn thereafter, giving him 10 or 11 days of rest.
Rodriguez said he felt pain in his shoulder early in his last start, but added that it's nothing he has never dealt with before, saying: "That's just normal to a pitcher."
"I feel it only in like my sixth throw," Rodriguez added. "But later, when I throw about six or more, when my arm feels a little bit more [loose], I don't feel nothing. It's only when I start to throw."
Rodriguez has made three starts this spring, hurling 8 2/3 innings and allowing nine runs, six of which came in his first outing. On Thursday against the Nationals, he gave up one run on four hits and struck out four in four innings.
The 32-year-old had a dreadful spring last year, but got stronger as the season went on, going 8-2 with a National League-leading 2.03 ERA in his final 18 starts en route to a three-year, $34 million extension.
Astros general manager Ed Wade previously said Rule 5 Draft pick Aneury Rodriguez -- who pitched one inning Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- would be available to start Tuesday.
"I'm sure all pitchers, at some point, have some tendinitis to where it's hard for them to get loose, and once it gets loose, it feels OK," Mills said. "Let's nip it in the bud or get it calmed down before we push it any further."
Astros center fielder Michael Bourn was held out of the starting lineup on Monday because he was feeling under the weather, manager Brad Mills said. ... MLB Network was at Osceola County Stadium on Monday, shooting for the Astros' segment of their "30 Clubs in 30 Days" series. The show is slated to run Tuesday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.