Astros select RHP Rhiner Cruz in Rule 5 Draft

DALLAS, TX - The Astros selected right-handed pitcher Rhiner Cruz with the first overall pick in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, TX.

By rule, the Astros will pay a $50,000 fee to the New York Mets for Cruz, whom they must keep in the Major Leagues for the entire 2012 season, or offer him back to the Mets.

Cruz, 25, has been effective in winter ball, posting a 1.29 ERA (2ER/14IP) in 15 relief appearances at Gigantes in the Dominican Republic while allowing just five hits (.106 opp. avg.) with nine walks and 14 strikeouts.

"He has a power arm and a breaking ball that is improving," said Astros Assistant General Manager Dave Gottfried. "We know him fairly well since Rick Aponte is his pitching coach in winter ball. Rick said in addition to a great arm, he has good character and a strong work ethic. He throws 95-plus and even hit 100 this winter. We project him as a back of the bullpen type reliever."

Cruz (6-2, 205) spent the 2011 season in the Mets farm system, starting at Class A Port St. Lucie (2-1, 2.77 ERA, 13 IP, 8 G, 18 SO) before being promoted to Double A Binghamton, where he was 3-2 in 36 relief appearances with a 4.14 ERA (27ER/58.2IP) with 51 strikeouts. He has a 3.44 ERA in 215 career minor league appearances with 320 strikeouts in 340 innings pitched.

ASTROS ACQUIRE SHORTSTOP FROM BOS

Following this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, the Astros acquired 22-year-old shortstop Marwin Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Marco Duarte and cash. Gonzalez had been selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the Major League phase of the draft off the Cubs Triple A Iowa roster, while the Astros selected Duarte with the first pick in the Triple A phase of the draft off the Rockies Double Tulsa roster.

The Astros must keep Gonzalez in the Major Leagues for the entire 2012 season, or offer him back to the Red Sox.

"Gonzalez has above-average defensive skills," Gottfried said. "He’s a switch-hitter, will play the season at 23 years old and is having a real solid season in winter ball."

Gonzalez (6-1, 186) is hitting .321 (36x112) for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League in 28 games with 16 RBI. He split the 2011 season between Double A Tennessee (.301) and Triple A Iowa (.274), hitting a combined .288 in 124 games with four home runs and 39 RBI.