HOUSTON (AP) Woody Williams was put on unconditional release waivers Saturday by the Houston Astros, who owe the pitcher $6.5 million.

The 41-year-old right-hander was 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA last season and had an 11.32 ERA in spring training this year. He gave up five runs and five hits in three innings Friday during a 10-0 exhibition loss to Detroit.

First baseman Lance Berkman questioned the timing.

"Possibly a bit premature," he said. "The game is completely different in the regular season than it is in spring training, especially from a guy like Woody who has been around the block a few times."

Williams signed a $12.5 million, two-year contract with the Astros before last season and is owed a $6.25 million salary for this year and a $250,000 buyout of a 2009 club option worth $6.75 million. He had a $6 million base salary last year and earned $250,000 in performance bonuses.

Williams is 132-116 with a 4.19 ERA in a 15-year career that includes stints with Toronto, St. Louis and San Diego. He had a career-high 18 wins with the Cardinals in 2003.

KRIV reported Williams plans to retire.

With Williams out of the picture, Chris Sampson will be the fifth starter for the Astros. Sampson was 7-8 with a 4.59 ERA last year, his first full season in the majors.

In other moves by Houston, catcher Humberto Quintero was designated for assignment and outfielder David Newhan was reassigned to Triple-A Round Rock to get the team down to a 25-man roster.

That means veteran Jose Cruz Jr. made the team, as well as infielder Tomas Perez, and relievers Brian Moehler and Wesley Wright.

Quintero had been the biggest question mark for the team. He had lost 30 pounds during spring training and batted .350 with 11 RBIs, which was tied for third on the team.

But with veteran utility infielder Geoff Blum out with a bruised left hip, the team felt it needed to keep Perez, who plays all four infield positions, instead of keeping Quintero as the third catcher.

"I proved I can play in the big leagues," an emotional Quintero said. "I did everything I could do. I'm going to just wait and see if somebody will pick me up."

Quintero must clear waivers by Wednesday. If he does, the Astros will have 10 days to trade him, release him or reassign him to Triple A.

"Obviously (the move) was a need thing for us," general manager Ed Wade said of the Quintero assignment. "We told him we view him as a big-league catcher."

Cruz, the son of former Astros All-Star Jose Cruz, now the team's first-base coach, was thought to be washed up after 11 big-league seasons. But he hit .364 in the spring and played well on defense.

"He came in as a player with long odds to make this team," manager Cecil Cooper said. "He hadn't been very productive the last couple of years. But he came in from day one in great shape and did well. He has rededicated himself. I think he can be a big part of what we do here."

Wright is a rookie who also faced long odds, since he was a non-roster invitee who played in Double A last year.

"It's like a dream come true," Wright said. "This time last year I was headed for Double A and now I'm headed for San Diego. I've called my mom and dad and everyone in my family already."

The Astros open the season Monday night at San Diego. Roy Oswalt will pitch against Padres ace Jake Peavy.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.