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Astros return Hirsh to Minors
03/15/2006 6:48 PM ET
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With half of the Grapefruit League season complete, the Houston Astros made their first round of cuts Wednesday morning.

Five pitchers were sent to Minor League camp: right-handers Jason Hirsh, Jimmy Barthmeier, Juan Gutierrez and Jared Gothreaux and left-hander Mark McLemore. Two catchers were also sent out -- Alan Zinter and J.R. House.

While none of the cuts came as a shock, Hirsh's early exit was surprising, to a degree. The 24-year-old was in the pool of hopefuls attempting to make the rotation out of Spring Training, although the club estimated his chances as marginal.

It would have taken a terrific spring showing for Hirsh to make the team, but that didn't happen. He allowed nine earned runs over eight innings, spanning three games.

"I feel that we have not seen his best game, although I can see why people are very high on him," manager Phil Garner said. "He has a great downhill tilt, he looks like when he gets his game together, he can control both sides of the plate. He's down in the zone. I would hope he would go down there and pitch right from the get-go and put a little heat on us up here."

Hirsh will begin the season in Triple-A Round Rock's rotation, and Garner wants the 6-foot-8 right-hander to work on his mound presence.

"He said, 'You're a big dude. You should be able to intimidate guys,'" Hirsh said. "It goes along with being in the first big-league camp. You're facing big-league hitters, the adrenaline's flowing. Maybe I was a little more timid on the mound than I'd like to be. He felt like some of my reactions, my body language, was not as intimidating as he would have liked."

Said Garner, "He's a guy with big stature, take advantage of it. You're a big man -- tower over people. Not that it's a bad thing. I didn't think his mound presence was bad. I just didn't think he utilized it as well as he can.

"You teach your kids to be humble, but when you get into an athletic contest, your posture and your presence is something you want to try to intimidate people. I didn't feel like there was a deficit there, I just feel it was something he could use to his advantage."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.