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Downs designated for assignment by Astros

HOUSTON -- Infielder Matt Downs, who hit .202 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 91 games for the Astros last year, was designated for assignment on Tuesday, essentially ending his time in a Houston uniform.

Downs, claimed off waivers from the Giants on Aug. 25, 2010, had a terrific '11 season, hitting .276 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in just 199 at-bats while playing all over the infield and even the outfield, but he struggled to hit for a high average in limited playing time this year.

This is the time of year when teams clear space on their 40-man roster in advance of free agency and having to protect players prior to the Rule 5 Draft. General manager Jeff Luhnow couldn't be reached for comment.

Houston Astros, Matt Downs