Fields An Easy Call For Astros In Rule 5

HOUSTON—The decision was barely a decision.

Thanks to finishing with the worst record in the major leagues, the rebuilding Astros earned the No. 1 selection in the Rule 5 draft. An average collection of unprotected players awaited Houston's evaluation. But once the front office began working through names and numbers, a consensus was quickly reached: Josh Fields.

At 27, the 6-foot, 185-pound power reliever appeared to be a classic Rule 5 selection: older, risky and unreliable. But the Astros saw something special in Fields. After struggling with his command early in his career, the No. 20 overall pick by the Mariners in the 2008 draft was coming into his own.

Fields appeared in 42 games last season for the Red Sox's Triple-A and Double-A affiliates, going 4-3, 2.01. He struck out 78 in 58 innings, utilizing a fastball that hit 97 mph and a power curveball to keep batters off-balance.

The strong-armed Fields, who was also selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2007 draft, was a perfect fit for a struggling Houston team seeking to deepen its bullpen and find a fill-in for closer Wilton Lopez, who was traded to the Rockies earlier during the Winter Meetings in Nashville.

"When we sat in the room, there was a very short discussion," pro scouting coordinator Kevin Goldstein said. "We said, 'We have Fields.' And everyone kind of nodded their head and were like, 'Let's move on and talk about the other picks.' "

The Rule 5 group grew stronger at the end of the major league portion of the draft. Houston added 26-year-old first baseman Nate Freiman from the Padres, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound slugger who hit .298/.370/.502 with 24 home runs last season at Double-A San Antonio.

"We liked him in the minors, we liked him in college, we liked him in the Arizona Fall League," Goldstein said. "Let's get him in, take a good look, and see if he can fit for us. We're excited to have him. We like him very much."

Space Shots

• The Astros chose Cubs outfielder Michael Burgess in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. A favorite of manager Bo Porter, Burgess is expected to begin the 2013 season with Double-A Corpus Christi. Houston later selected Giants righthander Cameron Lamb in the second round.

• Shortstop Carlos Correa has endured an up-and-down offseason in the Puerto Rican League. After struggling early, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft boosted his average to .250 before a 0-for-7 slump sunk his average to .225.