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03/22/09 11:15 AM ET

Hensley, Graves among Astros' cuts

Gall, Kata eliminated from competition for utility-infielder job

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Astros made another round of cuts on Sunday morning, reassigning five veteran non-roster players to Minor League camp -- right-handers Clay Hensley and Danny Graves, lefty Neal Musser and infielders Matt Kata and John Gall.

General manager Ed Wade granted Graves permission to talk to other teams about possible openings on their Major League rosters. Graves had heard that the Padres are in need of veteran relievers, but he has no idea at this time if anything will come of that.

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"I don't know if that's an option," said Graves, who has until Tuesday to accept the Astros' Minor League assignment. "I'm not really sure what I want to do yet. Coming into camp, this was the team I wanted to play for, and if it didn't work out here, then I felt like it was time for me to go home."

Graves had a 6.43 ERA over seven appearances, but all of his earned runs were given up across two outings. He yielded three runs in his first outing and three in his last, but in the five in between, he gave up just one run, which was unearned.

Innings run thin this time of the spring, when starters begin to pitch into the fifth and sixth, leaving few for the remainder of the relievers. As disappointing as it is not to make the team out of Spring Training, demotions also mean increased playing time, which is a welcome element for pitchers trying to get ready for the season.

Hensley will prepare to be a starter, but because he's versatile enough to pitch out of the 'pen as well, it's likely he'll be one of the first considered for a promotion if the Astros have a need this season.

"I need to get started getting stretched back out," Hensley said. "It was pretty good timing. You have to keep pitching. The last couple of weeks, the innings started going to the starters, which is normal. I need to start pitching."

Hensley allowed 10 earned runs over 7 2/3 innings spanning four games.

Musser didn't join the team until a couple of weeks ago, after he was designated for assignment by the Royals. Playing time was scarce, and in that respect, Musser, who made two appearances, wasn't caught off guard by his demotion.

"It's a tough part of the year to come in," Musser said. "They're already playing games -- there weren't a lot of innings to be had. Hopefully, I showed something that they liked, and I'll get another opportunity."

Gall and Kata were in the running for the utility-infielder job, but that competition is down to two: Edwin Maysonet and Jason Smith.

Kata hit .231 (6-for-26) over 13 games, and Gall hit .375 (9-for-24) in 16 games.

"I felt pretty good about my at-bats and my performance here," Gall said. "I've actually never had really good Spring Trainings. The last three years, [when] I was on the Cardinals' roster, I wish I would have hit the ball as well as I did this year. When you come in as a non-roster guy, you don't know what the situation is going to be.

"I've been playing for a long time, and I know what people think is going to happen in March isn't going to happen all year. I know I'm not in the grand plans, but I also know things change."

Kata also is optimistic that he'll be considered for a promotion should there be a need during the season.

"I feel I had quality at-bats during the spring," Kata said. "It was a situation where you just get outplayed. Guys stood out more than I did. When you're battling for a spot, you have to do something to stand out. I've done it before, been that guy. I think that's the situation where you just have to come and make an explosion, and I just didn't do it."

Manager Cecil Cooper commended both Kata and Gall for their professionalism and surmised that he hasn't seen the last of either one -- or any of the five, for that matter.

"Most of the time, your veteran guys are going to get a call during the summer at some point," Cooper said. "That's what you do. You see these guys in camp and you can tell what they can do so that you get familiar with them. Down the road, you might need them."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.