Results tagged ‘ bullpen ’
Mark Appel, one of the Astros’ top prospects and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon in front of senior pitcher advisor/special assistant to the general manager Doug Brocail and Astros pitching coach Brent Strom.
The Astros wanted to get Appel in front of Brocail, who served as the interim pitching coach at Double-A Corpus Christi, before the right-hander headed out next week for the instructional league in Florida and ultimately the Arizona Fall League.
“He’s still trying to get cleaned up,” Brocail said. “Personally, I think there’s a lot he needs to do. We’ve talked about it and it’s a matter of trying to clean him up as much as we can until he gets down the instructional league and out of the fall league. I just want to make sure he’s staying on the right path and doing the same things that led him to success at Double-A and he can keep marching up the ladder, versus taking one step back and two steps forward.”
Appel overcame a sluggish start to his first full season in the pro ball this year. He went 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Corpus Christi after beginning the season with a 2-5 record and a 9.74 ERA in 12 games at hitter-friendly Lancaster in Class A.
“We got some really good work done in terms of trying to time some things up,” Strom said. “His fastball was extremely explosive, good changeup. There’s some work that needs to be done on the slider, which we did.
“He’s very open to ideas, so it was an excellent session and there’s definitely thunder coming out of his arm, from what I saw in the bullpen. It was firm, and it was four-seam firm with power. I was very excited for him and he did a good job. I loved what I saw, to be honest with you.”
When asked how close he was in the Majors, Strom said: “I saw some fastballs today that could have played last night.”
Brocail said his theory when he got Appel in July was to prepare him to pitch in the big leagues, which meant cleaning up his rhythm and delivery and helping him hold runners better.
“We got him in a five-man rotation and moved forward and didn’t look back,” he said. “Not taking anything away from the other coaches, I told him, I said, ‘Listen, everything that you think worked, keep it. And everything that didn’t, get rid of it. Erase it completely off the slate.’ And he responded very well. He’s intelligent, he has desire to win. I wish I would have had him longer.”
The Astros’ focus now is on the bullpen.
General manager Jeff Luhnow said Friday the team has some offers on the table for some relief pitchers. He said he would like sign as many as two veteran relievers to join a bullpen that was the youngest in the Majors last year.
“We’ve got some offers out there we’re waiting on,” he said. “Whether or not things happen this weekend or next week or after that, I’m not sure. We feel pretty good we’re going to get at least one or two of the guys we’re targeting.”
The Astros struggled to close out games after trading reliever Jose Veras in July. Houston went with a young bullpen and finished with a 4.90 ERA that was the worst in baseball and blew a league-high 29 saves. Veras has talked to the Astros about returning.
Luhnow also hasn’t ruled out adding another bat or even another starting pitcher.
“If we have an opportunity to bring in yet another starter, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it,” he said. “Right now, our primary focus is shifting to the bullpen.”
Veteran left-hander Erik Bedard, who’s been one of the Astros’ most consistent starting pitchers, has been moved to the bullpen for the rest of the season. Manager Bo Porter said Saturday the club wants to use his spot in the rotation to get a look at a younger arm.
Bedard, 34, signed a Minor League deal with the Astros and won an Opening Day spot, though he briefly began the year in the bullpen before moving to the rotation. He’s 3-9 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 games this year, including 23 starts. He wasn’t happy with the decision.
“I’m very surprised,” he said. “I don’t even know what to say.”
Bedard was asked what the Astros told him.
“They said they looked at my last two years and my innings total was around where I’m at right now, and they said if I keep pitching I’ll be about 40 over, and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s the point,'” he said. “That’s it. I’d rather stay in the rotation.”
The Astros will continue to employ a six-man rotation and will announce which player is going into the rotation in the next few days (Lucas Harrell will remain in the bullpen). One of the candidates is rookie David Martinez, who won 14 games between Triple-A and Double-A before being called up Wednesday.
“We’re at the point in the year, we only have one lefty down there and we want to take a look at these young guys and give them some extended innings in a starting role to better evaluate them as we head into the offseason,” Porter said.
Brett Oberholtzer is scheduled to start Monday in Chicago against the White Sox, and Jarred Cosart will start Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Astros will call up left-handed pitcher Kevin Chapman from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday and will designate left-hander Travis Blackley for assignment. Chapman will be in uniform against the Rangers for would be his Major League debut.
Chapman, 25, was 1-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 45 appearances for the RedHawks with two saves and 61 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings of work. In his last 10 games, he has posted a 1.42 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings pitched. He earned a save in his last appearance on Tuesday, throwing a scoreless inning against Colorado Springs. For the season, left-handed hitters are hitting .193 against him.
Blackley, acquired by the Astros from Oakland on April 4 in exchange for Minor League outfielder Jake Goebbert, was 1-1 with a 4.89 ERA in 42 appearances with Houston this year.
Chapman, acquired last spring along with outfielder D’Andre Toney from the Royals in exchange for Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero, will be the second rookie reliever to join Houston’s bullpen in as many games. Jorge De Leon was called up prior to Wednesday’s game, but he’s yet to make his Major League debut.
The addition of Chapman gives Houston five rookies in their bullpen, joining De Leon, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Fields and Josh Zeid. Wesley Wright and Lucas Harrell are the only veterans in the bullpen.
No one is more encouraged by how well the Astros’ bullpen has pitched in the last few weeks than interim pitching coach Doug Brocail, who took over June 14 when Brad Arnsberg was let go by the team.
Houston’s bullpen, which currently consists of five rookies, entered Saturday having posted a 0.95 ERA in its last 14 games. Astros relievers had allowed four earned runs in 38 innings pitching during that span. Still, the Astros are last in the National League with a 4.40 ERA.
“The guys are throwing well, especially from where we were,” Brocail said. “Every time we’ve called on them, they’ve done a good job. I think the important thing is they’re picking each other up. If a guy comes in and doesn’t get the job done, we’ve been really good lately about picking him up. It’s nice to see that we’re getting some things accomplished.
“When I came on, the big worry was ‘Oh my God, you inherited a bullpen that’s blown 19 saves.’ You know what? They’re all rookies. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to get better and hopefully learn from it and that’s where we’re at now.”
Right-handers David Carpenter, Enerio Del Rosario, Anuery Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez are rookies, along with left-hander Sergio Escalona. The only non-rookies in the bullpen are close Mark Melancon, who was a rookie last year, and set-up man Wilton Lopez, who’s in his second full year.
“The thing is, when you have some rookies you’ve got to make sure they’re communicating and talking to each other,” Brocail said. “We’ve tried to stress that.”
As an Astros fan, it’s probably hard to stomach the team’s 13-21 record considering they’ve blown nine saves this year — the most in the Major Leagues. The Astros have converted only five of 14 save chances, which translates to a league-worst 35.7 save conversion rate. Last year, the Astros blew 15 saves in the entire season.
The struggles of the bullpen, which is last in the Majors with a 5.54 ERA and .305 batting average against, were on full display Sunday when left-hander Fernando Abad gave up a three-run homer in the eighth inning to Ryan Doumit, allowing the Pirates to steal a 5-4 win.
The Astros have rallied to win three of the games in which they have blown a save, so it’s safe to say blown saves have cost them six wins. That’s the difference between being 19-15 and 13-21 – their record heading into Monday’s game against the Reds.
Although it’s unreasonable to expect any team to have not blown a save a month into the season (every team has blown at least one save), letting six wins get away can have a huge effect on the standings. A 19-15 record would put the Astros in first place in the NL Central (one of the blown saves was against St. Louis, which is currently 20-15).
Mark Melancon and Jeff Fulchino have both blown one save, but they’ve been pretty effective this year. Melancon has allowed 14 hits and struck out 12 in 16 2/3 innings, and Fulchino has allowed 15 hits and has struck out 15 batters in 16 innings.
Lyon, the team’s closer, has blown four saves and landed on the disabled list last week with biceps tendinitis and a partial tear of his rotator cuff after blowing a game in Cincinnati. Enerio Del Rosario (5.14 ERA), Wilton Lopez (5.14), Abad (7.50) haven’t been as effective as the team had hoped.
Here’s a breakdown of the Astros’ nine blown saves (games the Astros won are in italics):
- April 1 at Philadelphia – Astros lead 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning before the Phillies rally on Opening Day for three runs off Brandon Lyon to win, 5-4.
- April 8 vs. Florida – With a 2-1 lead through seven innings, Wilton Lopez gives up two in the eighth to blow a save in a 4-3 loss to Marlins.
- April 17 vs. San Diego – The Astros led, 6-4, through seventh innings before Mark Melancon gave up four runs (two earned) in the eighth. The Padres win, 8-6.
- April 23 at Milwaukee – Brandon Lyon allows one run in the eighth to tie the game, but the Astros score three in the ninth to win, 9-6.
- April 26 vs. Chicago – Jeff Fulchino gives up a run in the eighth inning of one-run game, but the Astros rally to win, 6-5.
- April 28 vs. St. Louis – The Cardinals erupt for nine runs in the sixth inning to wipe out a 4-1 deficit, with Fernando Abad giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning to blow the save. St. Louis wins, 11-7.
- April 30 vs. Milwaukee – Brandon Lyon allows a run in the ninth, but Astros score a run in bottom of inning to win, 2-1.
- May 4 at Cincinnati – Reds score three in the bottom of the night without an out off Brandon Lyon to win, 3-2.
- May 8 at Pittsburgh – Fernando Abad gives up a three-run home in the bottom of the eighth to Ryan Doumit to allow Pirates to win, 5-4.
Here it is: the eighth and final installment of the Astros’ position-by-position breakdown. Today we’ll take a look at relief pitching, which general manager Ed Wade says is one of the strengths of the team. Before we get to the bullpen, here are the links to the previous seven entries in the series (click on the desired position to view the entry): catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield, starting pitcher.
2010 bullpen to begin season: Brian Moehler, Jeff Fulchino, Sammy Gervacio, Chris Sampson, Tim Byrdak, Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon.
2010 end-of-season bullpen: Fernando Abad, Tim Byrdak, Gustavo Chacin, Enerio Del Rosario, Jeff Fulchino, Matt Lindstrom, Wilton Lopez, Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Felipe Paulino, Henry Villar and Wesley Wright.
Others who made an appearance: Nelson Figueroa, Brian Moehler, Casey Daigle, Gary Majewski, Kevin Cash.
Combined 2010 stats of Astros relief pitchers: 24-23 record, 45 saves in 60 opportunities, 4.49 ERA (ranked 13th in the NL).
Free agents: None.
Arbitration eligible: LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Gustavo Chacin, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Felipe Paulino.
What happened: The Astros traded for hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom last December and plunked down $15 million on a three-year contract for Brandon Lyon to bolster the back end of the bullpen after losing both Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins to free agency. Lyon developed a cyst in his shoulder and was behind all spring, opening the door for Lindstrom to win the closer’s job.
Lindstrom got off to a terrific start, posting a 1.40 ERA in his first 19 appearances and going 10-for-10 in save opportunities. He blew three saves and posted a 5.23 ERA in June and began battling back spasms that eventually cost him the closer’s job and forced him to the disabled list in August. Lyon took over as closer in early August and finished with 20 saves in 22 chances and a 3.12 ERA.
Lindstrom, who led the team with 23 saves, and Lyon became the first set of teammates to save at least 20 games in the same season since the 1992 Cincinnati Reds.
Wilton Lopez, who the Astros acquired on a waiver claim in 2009, took on an important role in the back of the bullpen and wound up pitching in 68 games and posted a 2.96 ERA. The Astros also got good mileage out of lefty Tim Byrdak and right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who battled injuries and wasn’t as sharp as he was in 2009. Fan favorite Chris Sampson had a good first half and was eventually sent to the Minors after some struggles and designated for assignment. Alberto Arias, who was injured in Spring Training, and Sammy Gervacio were quickly shut down because of shoulder troubles.
As the year progressed, the Astros got a good look at right-handers Henry Villar and Mark Melancon, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade.
What’s next: Astros general manager Ed Wade doesn’t plan to do much to the bullpen in the offseason and sees it as one of the strengths of the club. Lyon and Lindstrom will once again compete for the closer’s job in the spring, though both could again wind up finishing off games at some point. The Astros like what Lopez brings to the back end of the bullpen and envision Melancon as a future late-game reliever.
Arias, who had surgery for rotator cuff impingement, could be in the picture next year along with Gervacio, who missed most of the year with rotator cuff inflammation. Gervacio had mixed results in the Minors but showed some good flashes with the Minor Leagues. Fernando Abad had a good Major League debut in his 22 appearances and will be a left-handed option, along with Wesley Wright.
Who’s on the farm: Left-hander Douglas Arguello, the pitcher of the year at Double-A Corpus Christi, will be in spring camp next year competing for a job. Abad and Villar, both of whom came up late in the season, could lead the next wave of youngsters in the pen. Don’t forget Chia-Jen Lo, who missed much of last year with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.