10/29/2003 1:31 PM ET Four Astros file for free agency By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Brian Moehler made three starts for the Astros before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. (Tony Dejak/AP)
HOUSTON -- Four Houston Astros -- Brad Ausmus, Orlando Merced, Rick White and Brian Moehler -- filed for free agency on Tuesday. Jose Vizcaino, Dan Miceli and Ron Villone are potential free agents but have not yet filed. Of the four who have already filed, Ausmus is most likely to return to the Astros. The 34-year-old catcher batted .229, but he is considered invaluable behind the plate and is a candidate to win his third consecutive Gold Glove award.
Ausmus, who lives in San Diego during the offseason, said toward the end of the season that the Astros are on a short list of teams he would play for in the later stages of his career.
Merced batted .231 over 123 games, mainly as a pinch-hitter with an occassional spot start in one of the corner outfield positions. White signed with the Astros after he was released by the White Sox in mid-August. He was 0-0 with a 3.72 ERA over 15 games for Houston, allowing eight earned runs over 19 1/3 innings.
Moehler made only three starts for the Astros before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in May.
Of those who have not yet filed, Villone could have the best chance to re-sign with the Astros. The left-hander joined the rotation in mid-June and emerged as an anchor of an inconsistent starting pitching staff. The 33-year-old journeyman was 6-6 with a 4.13 ERA for the Astros in 2003.
The Astros will need to make a decision on whether they want Vizcaino to return as their infield utility man. Vizcaino was arguably the best clutch hitter the Astros have had in the last few years, but they also have arbitration-eligible Geoff Blum, who might slide into the utility role now that Morgan Ensberg appears to have won the starting third base job.
Burke makes Team USA: If Chris Burke's career path follows that of Roy Oswalt or Adam Everett, the second baseman's future in the Major Leagues could be bright.
Burke was picked to represent the United States on the Olympic Qualifying Team, Major League Baseball annnounced Tuesday. The club will be managed by Frank Robinson at the Athens Summer Olympic Games Baseball Qualifying Tournament for the Americas in Panama City, Panama, beginning Oct. 30 and running through Nov. 10.
Team USA recently wrapped up play at the team trials in Phoenix, Ariz. with a 10-3-1 record. They posted a 9-3 record against Arizona Fall League competition, and won once and tied one game in a pair of exhibition games against Team Canada.
Burke, who batted .301 with 23 doubles, eight triples and three homers and 41 RBIs over 137 games for the Double-A Round Rock Express, is the third Olympic hopeful the Astros have produced in the last three years. Oswalt and Everett both played for the 2000 team, which won the gold medal in Sydney, Australia.
During All-Star week in Chicago in July, Burke, the Astros' number one pick in the 2001 June draft, participated in the 2003 Futures Game, which features the top prospects in all of Major League Baseball.
Nice to see that the Astros are keeping the team intact. If they can get one more Arm during the offseason to go along with Miller and Oswalt they could be very deep, don't forget that Carlos Hernandez should be ready for spring too. With that Bullpen. The NL Central should be another battle all year.
Simply the most enjoyable divison to watch baseball IMO.
wrveres wrote:The NL Central should be another battle all year. Simply the most enjoyable divison to watch baseball IMO.
I agree. It's a fun division to watch.
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