Astros take 44-year-old Franco off 40-man roster

CINCINNATI -- John Franco was designated for assignment by
the Houston Astros on Saturday, removing him from the 40-man roster
and giving the team 10 days to decide what to do with the NL's
career leader in saves.

The Astros can either trade Franco, release him or send the
44-year-old left-hander to the minors.

"I'm disappointed, but my numbers aren't that good," Franco
said. "It's part of the game. They have a number of young guys
that they want to take a look at."

The former Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets closer was 0-1 with
a 7.20 ERA in 31 games with Houston. He is second behind Lee Smith
on the career saves list with 424, the most for a left-hander.

"We felt like there are some other guys who are doing a pretty
good job," manager Phil Garner said. "You never like to do this
to a good man. We feel like we failed in some way."

The move on Franco was done to make room for right-hander
Ezequiel Astacio, who was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to
start the second game of Saturday's doubleheader against the
Cincinnati Reds.

Astacio, 25, was 0-3 with a 10.98 ERA in six games with Houston,
including four starts, in May. He went 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA in five
June games at Round Rock and is 4-3 with a 2.70 overall with the
Express this season.

Franco set Cincinnati's career saves record with 148 in six
seasons before being traded to the New York Mets after the 1989
season. His Reds record lasted until Danny Graves broke it last

The Brooklyn native set the Mets' club record with 278 saves in
14 seasons before the Mets let him go after last season. He signed
with Houston as a free agent.