KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Richard Hidalgo's comeback bid with the Astros ended on Saturday, when general manager Tim Purpura and manager Phil Garner informed the outfielder they were giving him his outright release.
The Astros offered to reassign Hidalgo to the Minor Leagues, but he declined, indicating he'd like to try to hook on with a different team that may have room for him on its Major League roster.
"He's someone we had high hopes for, that he would be able to come back and rejuvenate his career here," Purpura said. "We told Richard we had no qualms about the way he handled his business. He's a true professional. His defense was solid, probably above average. It's just that offensively he never came around the way we hoped he would. Rather than prolong it further, we have to get our club together and just thought we'd give him the news today."
Hidalgo, 31, hit .136 (6-for-44) with one homer and nine RBIs over 19 spring games. Behind Luke Scott and Jason Lane on the right field depth chart, Hidalgo, a non-roster invitee, would have had to hit much better to even be considered to make the Opening Day roster.
The news didn't come as a complete surprise. Purpura had spoken to Hidalgo's agent, Peter Greenberg, earlier this week and indicated that Hidalgo's chances to make the team were slim.
Hidalgo left Osceola County Stadium immediately after emerging from Garner's office and did not address reporters.
Once a budding superstar in the Astros organization, Hidalgo signed a Minor League contract with Houston over the winter in an attempt to resurrect a career that began spiraling downward shortly after he signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Astros prior to the 2001 season.
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He was traded to the Mets in the middle of the '04 campaign, and after struggling there, he had an unproductive one-year run with the Rangers in '05. Hidalgo has not played in the big leagues since.
Purpura, formerly the Astros farm director, has known Hidalgo since he was a rising star in the player development system in the mid-1990s. While he was pulling for Hidalgo to resurrect his career with his original team, Purpura was diplomatic about the decision to release the outfielder.
"It's all a business relationship," Purpura said. "There are certain guys you pull for, but you have to be objective about it. Our job is to be objective about all of our players and do the right thing for the ballclub. From that point of view, [the decision was] easy because he didn't measure up to the players that we have here."
Scott and Lane will continue to compete for the Opening Day nod in right field. Hidalgo's release does not guarantee that either or both have made the club.
The Astros have 33 players remaining in Major League camp with nine days remaining until Opening Day.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.