KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros trimmed their roster for the first time this spring when they optioned outfielder Domingo Santana and left-handed pitcher Luis Cruz to Minor League camp and reassigned catcher Luis Flores to Minor League camp on Friday morning.
Santana was considered one of the club's elite prospects a year ago and still could have a bright future, but he wasn't going to make the Opening Day roster. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said it was important for Santana to get more playing time in Minor League camp at this point.
"It's just about getting regular at-bats and getting the confidence that he can succeed at the Major League level," Luhnow said.
Santana, 22, hit .296 with 16 homers and 81 RBIs in 120 games last year for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was called up on July 1 and struggled with the Astros, going 0-for-17 with 14 strikeouts. Luhnow admitted Santana's confidence took a hit.
"The Major Leagues are so tough," Luhnow said. "Even if you've had success, for a young player to come up and struggle right out of the gate, you sort of dig yourself a hole that's hard to get out of. He's a smart guy. He's working really hard. He knows what he needs to work on.
"I'm confident he's going to Triple-A and will have a good season again and figure out a way to have that confidence at the big league level, and he will. He's going to be a real good player and he's going to be here a long time."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he was happy with the work Santana did in the outfield this spring, while acknowledging that he has some things to "clean up" offensively.
"Having him have this much of Spring Training to watch [Colby] Rasmus and the guys in the outfield and see how they work, it's good experience for him," Hinch said. "As challenges present themselves, Domingo will answer the call."
Cruz, 24, appeared in two games this spring after being slowed by a bruised hand. He went 8-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 22 starts between Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi last year, reaching Triple-A for the first time in his career. Cruz will start the season in the rotation at Triple-A Fresno.
"We talked to him about the fact that when he gets called up, which could happen this year for him, it could be either as a starter or a reliever, a left-handed guy that has a mix of pitches and is able to get both lefties and righties out," Luhnow said. "He's a valuable piece for us. I think this may be the year that he could make his debut in Houston, which is great."
Flores, selected by the Astros in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December, was a seventh-round pick of the Cubs in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and has 362 career Minor League games under his belt. At Triple-A Iowa last year, he hit .253 with a .440 on-base percentage in 31 games, and he has thrown out 36 percent of attempted basestealers in his pro career.