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Trio of Astros, trio of Houston prospects in Classic

HOUSTON -- Six players from the Astros organization have been selected to play in the World Baseball Classic, including outfielder Fernando Martinez (Spain), right-hander Rhiner Cruz (Spain) and left-hander Xavier Cedeno (Puerto Rico).

Three others in the system will also compete: right-handers Murilo Gouvea (Brazil) and Chia-Jen Lo (Chinese Taipei), and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin (Chinese Taipei). Provisional rosters were due on Wednesday, but all 16 teams have until Feb. 20 to file their formal rosters.

Martinez, claimed off waivers from the Mets a year ago, hit .237 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 118 at-bats last year for Houston, playing in a career-high 41 games. Though he's playing for Spain, he was born in the Dominican Republic.

General manager Jeff Luhnow isn't against his players competing in the Classic, though he admitted that not being in front of Houston's staff might hamper a player's chance to make the club.

"The big challenge is ... a guy like Fernando Martinez, who's trying to make our club, [being] gone for an extended period of time. I think that potentially hurts him, even if he does well in the Classic," Luhnow said. "It hurts him because he's not there with our coaches, being seen firsthand. It makes it a little bit more difficult. The fact he's playing for Spain means he's not going to be gone the whole month. Nothing against Spain, but they're not likely to make it past the first round."

Cruz, who was also born in the Dominican Republic, appeared in 52 games last year in his rookie season, posting a 6.05 ERA. He was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft and ranked fifth among National League rookies in appearances.

Cedeno, a native of Puerto Rico, appeared in 44 games in two stints with the Astros last year after beginning the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He posted a 3.77 ERA, closing the season with 12 consecutive scoreless outings.

Lo, who missed almost all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery, made it back to the mound last year and appeared in 10 games between the Gulf Coast League and Class A Lancaster.

Lin, claimed off waivers from Boston in October, spent most of his 2012 season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he hit .247 with 11 doubles, 30 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .323 on-base percentage. He had four stints on Boston's active roster, hitting .250 in nine games, which marks his only Major League experience.

Gouvea, who was born in Sao Paulo, went 2-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 50 games in relief last year at Class A Lexington.

Luhnow isn't concerned about pitchers competing so early in the spring.

"Because they're relievers and there's so many relievers on each team, I expect they're not going to be overused, so it will be fine," he said.

Starting pitchers are restricted to 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second, and 95 in the semifinals and finals. A starter must take four days off if he throws more than 50 pitches.

Relievers can pitch on back-to-back days if they don't exceed 30 pitches the first day. If a reliever throws 30 in a game, he must take a day off. After back-to-back appearances, regardless of pitch counts, pitchers must get a day off.

Brazil is in Pool A, along with Japan, China and Cuba, and will have round-robin play from March 2-6 in Japan. Chinese Taipei is in Pool B, with Korea, the Netherlands and Australia, and will play from March 2-5 in Taiwan.

Puerto Rico and Spain are both in Pool C and will take part in round-robin play from March 7-10 in Puerto Rico. The championship round will be held from March 17-19 in San Francisco.

Houston Astros, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz, Chia-Jen Lo, Fernando Martinez