Results tagged ‘ Lucas Harrell ’

Astros set pitching rotation

Just moments after the Astros wrapped up Grapefruit League play with a win over the Mets, manager Bo Porter announced right-hander Lucas Harrell and left-hander Dallas Keuchel would handle the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.

Scott Feldman will start Opening Day on Tuesday against the Yankees, followed by Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer. Harrell will start April 4 against the Angels and Keuchel on April 5.

Harrell and Keuchel were battling with Jerome Williams and Brad Peacock, but they were informed they will begin the season in the bullpen. Porter thought both Harrell and Keuchel were more effective as starters than relievers last year.

“When you look at the complete body of work, Jerome has done both and when you look at Lucas and Keuchel, we had Lucas in the bullpen last year and we felt he was much better suited as a starting pitcher,” Porter said. “A guy who’s a sinkerballer, he needs to wear down a little bit.

“You look at Dallas, we just felt the time he spent in the rotation was much better than the time he spent in the bullpen. I felt Peacock has that power stuff that could play as a long reliever or in a situation where the starter gives us extended innings, he’s another option in short relief as well.”

Harrell posted a 5.98 ERA in 22 starts last year and had a 5.49 ERA in 39 1/3 innings in relief. Keuchel had a 4.90 ERA in 22 starts and a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. Williams went 8-10 with a 5.06 ERA in 25 starts for the Angels last year and posted a 2.35 ERA in 30 2/3 innings in relief.

“Jerome was here to do whatever it is that we need to do in order to win baseball game,” Porter said. “Like I said to him, look at the number of starting pitchers we went through last year. This is where we’re at today and that could change a week from now, I don’t know.”

The Astros used 10 different starters last year.

Veteran leadership key as workouts begin

Prior to Astros pitchers and catchers taking the field for the first time Sunday morning on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, manager Bo Porter met with a group of veteran pitchers he identified as being the leaders of the staff.

Porter sat down with Lucas Harrell, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Jerome Williams and Peter Moylan and told them he wants them to set a good example for the youngsters. They’ll also be involved in some of the morning meetings.

“You look at that group, and it’s guys that had success at the Major League level, they’re veteran guys,” Porter said. “I explained to them, ‘We’re not looking for one leader. We’re looking for a group of leaders.’ This is an unusual situation. A lot of those guys have come here from other organizations. Chad and Albers are a little bit different because they were here at one time and came back. Lucas has been here.

“I wanted to stress to them that this organization and where we’re at right now, it’s not like we have the [Craig] Biggios, the [Jeff] Bagwells, the guys that have been here for many years and you can say, ‘Hey, follow these guys. They know the Astros way.’ We are in the process of creating the Astros way, and our younger guys, I want to make sure they’re following the right people.

“I stressed that to our veteran guys. When you are a young players – and we’ve all been there before – you look around the clubhouse and say, ‘Wow, this guy’s been here 10 years. I wonder how he’s been able to accomplish that?’ Because you’re young, you’re impressionable and you’re going to watch that guy and watch that every move. I told those guys, ‘You will do more by whatever it is you do than you do than by whatever it is that you say.’ So make sure that your actions match what it is you’re saying each and every day.”

While the pitchers did their morning stretch work, Porter emphasized how happy he was that camp was finally underway following an offseason full of roster moves.

“I probably looked at the roster 1,000 times,” he said. “That’s what you do each and every day. You go to the ballpark and sit up at night and you think about the players. It’s good to have the group of talented guys we have here, but more importantly it’s good to be out here and getting started with the 2014 season.”

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Clemens and Moylan emerge

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Harrell heads to field

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Wojciechowski walks to field

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Castro gets in gear

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Rhiner Cruz

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Qualls is back in Kissimmee

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Porter talks with Appel and Stassi

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Corporan mugs for the camera

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Pitchers do morning exercises

Harrell impresses despite trouble throwing strikes

Astros starter Lucas Harrell bemoaned the fact he had trouble throwing strikes Thursday night against the Tigers, but the fact he was still able to deliver a strong start was certainly a good sign.

Harrell worked five innings and allowed three hits, two runs and three walks against Detroit in Lakeland, Fla., in his second-to-last Grapefruit League start. He has allowed only three earned runs in his last 16 innings of work this spring.

“I was struggling throwing strikes,” Harrell said. “I was leaking out a little bit early and my arm wasn’t getting up, so it’s something I’ll definitely work on next time. I feel like my sinker was pretty good, but just when you get behind you have to throw pitches guys can hit. I felt a couple of times I got myself into trouble.”

Harrell, who has one start remaining in Florida, said he’s happy with how his changeup is coming along and the effectiveness of his curveball. His sinker, his bread-and-butter pitch, was sharp on Thursday, but his cutter was up in the zone.

“It’s something I’m really going to address over the next three or four days and make sure I get that right going into the season,” Harrell said. “I have to trust my stuff and work on getting ground balls early, get some early contact. I got in too many hitter’s counts, and I have to let my defense work for me.”

Harrell will start for the Astros on April 2 against the Rangers, who announced Yu Darvish will pitch against Houston that night.

Norris honored to take the ball on Opening Day

Bud Norris said he was humbled to learn Wednesday he would get the ball to start the season for the Astros. Houston manager Bo Porter named Norris as his Opening Day starter, meaning he’ll pitch against the Rangers on March 31 when the Astros play their first American League game.

Porter chose Norris over Lucas Harrell, who will pitch the second game of the season on April 2.

“I’m very honored,” Norris said. “It’s something I’ve been working for my whole career, something everyone works for their whole career. It’s a childhood dream to have an Opening Day game like that. I know Lucas had a great spring and he can pitch. It was either/or. I wasn’t mad if he got it or what not. I’m excited to go out there and give this team every opportunity to go out there and win, and very excited to do it in Houston on a nationally televised game.”

Norris said he hadn’t thought too much about starting on Opening Day, but it was clearly something he wanted. Porter told Harrell the news first Wednesday afternoon, and when Harrell was walking out of the manager’s office and Norris was walking in, Harrell gave him a pat on the rear.

“Just excited to get and it’s great to have that accolade in my honor, but by the same token having a guy [Harrell] pushing me and supporting me is outstanding,” Norris said. “I’m at a loss for words at times, but humbled by the experience.”

Norris said it was one of the most meaningful things that have happened to him as a professional.

“You don’t have an opportunity all the time to throw the first pitch of the season,” he said. “When I mean childhood dreams come, that’s truly what it is. I remember listening on the radio Opening Day and it’s a big anticipation thing. Just to know that day is I get to go out there and play baseball in the city of Houston, it’s truly exciting and I’m honored.”

Harrell, the team’s Pitcher of the Year last year, was happy for Norris.

“He’s earned it, he’s been here the longest and proven he can do it,” Harrell said. “What better guy to lead us?”

Game 21: Harrell dazzles, Correa makes debut

What happened: Lucas Harrell threw four scoreless, hitless innings and Rene Garcia broke a tie in the eighth with a two-run single to lead the Astros to a 4-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday night at Space Coast Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Lucas Harrell appears to be over his groin problems. Harrell, who missed his turn in the rotation a week ago because of a strained groin, threw four hitless innings and walked a pair of batters in his fourth start of the spring.

“Last time I pitched against them I went in a lot, so I was trying to work on going down and away,” Harrell said. “Working with [catcher Carlos] Corporan, we were on the same page all game and I threw a lot of changeups, threw a couple of curveballs, threw some sliders. It wasn’t real good today but it’s something I can address the next few days.”

What we learned II: SS Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s Draft, can handle the bright lights. At least in Spring Training anyway. Correa stroked a game-tying RBI single to left field off Drew Storen in the eighth inning on the first pitch he saw in Grapefruit League action and wound up going 1-for-2 with a stolen base.

“My first experience in a big league game, even though it was in Spring Training, it was a lot of fun to be with the players over here and play against the Washington Nationals,” Correa said. “It was a really great experience for me.”

What else: RHP Edgar Gonzalez continues to solidify his role as a long reliever by throwing three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out two batters. … RHP Hector Ambriz threw a scoreless fifth inning. … OF Trevor Crowe went 3-for-5 with a double. … OF Rick Ankiel launched a towering home run in the fourth inning off Stephen Strasburg and is hitting .429 this spring.

What went wrong: The Astros let a pop up in the infield drop in the sixth inning on a ball that clicked off the glove of 3B Marwin Gonzalez. The error allowed a pair of unearned runs to score with two outs.

What they said: “You have to be appreciative for this stuff. I just got drafted last year and they invited me to play here. All the hard work is playing off and I have to be thankful for the opportunity they gave me to play over here.” — Astros prospect Carlos Correa on joining the big league team for Saturday’s game.

What’s next: RHP Bud Norris, who could start for the Astros on Opening Day, makes his fourth appearance of the spring when the Astros meet the Blue Jays at 12:05 p.m. CT on Sunday in Kissimmee, Fla. Norris (1-0, 7.27) has appeared in three Grapefruit League games, allowing 11 hits and seven earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. LHP Erik Bedard, who’s been limited to two games this spring because of a strained gluteal muscle, will also get on the mound. The game will be carried on CSN Houston with Bill Brown and Steve Sparks calling the action.

Who’s injured: OF Fernando Martinez left Saturday’s game with tightness in his lower back.

Tweet of the day: GM Jeff Luhnow on SS Marwin Gonzalez’s tremendous play behind second base in the second inning:

Links of the day: Astros notebook has more on prospects Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton and Domingo Santana joining the Major League club, Dave Clark’s thoughts on getting knocked down by a ball during batting practice, Lucas Harrell talking about his outing and why manager Bo Porter chose to forgo the DH for Saturday’s game.

Harrell looks sharp in fourth outing of spring

Astros starter Lucas Harrell certainly appears to be over his groin problems that forced him to miss his turn in the rotation a week ago.

Harrell, making his fourth start of the spring, threw four scoreless, hitless innings Saturday against the Nationals, allowing just two walks. The right-hander threw 27 of his 48 pitches for strikes, including a five-pitch first inning in which he didn’t throw a ball.

“I definitely felt like I could have gone two or three more [innings],” Harrell said. “I definitely feel like my arm is where it needs to be and my legs are good now so I’m ready to get back out there now on a consistent basis.”

Harrell mixed his pitches quite well and benefitted from a couple of nice defensive plays from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who went behind second base to rob Ryan Zimmerman of a hit in the second inning and made a nice play across the bag to finish off a 4-6-3 play an inning later.

“Last time I pitched against them I went in a lot, so I was trying to work on going down and away,” Harrell said. “Working with [catcher Carlos] Corporan, we were on the same page all game, and I threw a lot of changeups, threw a couple of curveballs, threw some sliders. It wasn’t real good today but it’s something I can address the next few days.”

Harrell was forced to hit the deck to get the final out of the fourth inning. Zimmerman’s bat busted above the hands and went flying over the head of Harrell, who hit the ground and was struck in the face by a small piece of the bat.

“A lot of people probably thought when I went down it was my groin, but when the bat went over my head a little piece of it flew up and hit me in the face,” he said. “That’s why I went down. I was trying to get out of the way of the bat.”

Porter to use five-man rotation early in season

Astros manager Bo Porter said he’ll open the season with a five-man rotation despite the surplus of off days early in the year. The Astros have four off days in the first three weeks of the season, but Porter said he plans to stick with five starters throughout April.

“I’m a proponent of you take the off days,” he said. “You can’t duplicate the intensity we’ll have once we get to Minute Maid ballpark. That’s not to say that Spring Training, the preparation part of it, isn’t difficult, but you can’t duplicate that energy. Early in the year, I’ve always leaned on the side of giving the guys the extra off day, and later in the year if you have to skip a guy, we’ll skip a guy at that point.”

Porter also said he won’t decide on an Opening Day starting pitcher until later in camp. Right-handers Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell are the two candidates to take the mound on March 31 against the Rangers. Porter said several factors will play into the decision, including who the pitchers will match up against later in the month and where they will pitch (home or road).

Whichever pitcher starts on Opening Day would come back and start at home on April 7, but the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation would take his second start of the season on the road. Both Norris and Harrell were very strong at home last year. Norris led the NL with a 1.71 ERA at home last year, and Harrell ranked fifth with a 2.34 ERA at Minute Maid Park.

“Those are all factors that from a managerial standpoint you take those things into consideration,” Porter said. “You look at your opponents, you look at your division and you want to have your best guys going against division foes. You want to see your rotation stack up for the long haul where you have your best guys going against your division foes.”

The Astros’ first 15 games in 2013 and 18 of their first 21 games are against AL West foes.

Here’s what else is going on with the Astros:

  • The Astros are being cautious with left-hander Erik Bedard, who has a strain to his right glute. He hopes to get on the mound in the next few days.
  • Norris will start the Feb. 12 game against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla. Norris’ scheduled day to throw would be Monday, but the Astros are off and Porter plans to make sure the players don’t have to come to the facility.

MLB Network was at Astros camp on Thursday, and here we see Sean Casey giving a fist bump to bench coach Eduardo Perez prior to their interview:

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Harrell focusing on curveball

Astros pitcher Lucas Harrell is focusing this year on perfecting his curveball, a pitch he believes will help him work deeper into games and get more outs. He threw a handful of curves in his four innings of work Tuesday against the Nats and is pleased at the results so far.

“I felt like it was pretty good early and we threw it a few times to lefties, a few times to righties,” he said. “It was my first time throwing it in a game. I really worked on it the last couple of days, really worked on it a lot this offseason trying to get it better. [Catcher Carlos] Corporan and I were on the same page the whole time and then the defense made some good plays.”

Harrell, who allowed three hits and one run and struck out four batters in four innings, is predominantly a fastball/sinker pitcher, though he has an effective cutter and changeup. He said there were some games last year he didn’t throw a curveball at all.

“It’s usually my fourth-best pitch,” he said. “But I want to make it one of my strengths. I threw a lot down in the bullpen and today I wanted to throw it in situations I wouldn’t get hurt. I threw it a couple of times today for a first-pitch strike.”

Harrell threw one to Ryan Zimmerman after throwing a couple of good fastballs and got a strikeout looking.

“It’s just a thing I knew my curveball wasn’t very good and I knew to be successful, too, you have to pitch longer in the game,” he said. “Any time you can help your team and get deeper in the game, that’s the key.”

Harrell keeps ball down, coasts through 3 innings

Astros starter Lucas Harrell breezed through three innings against water-down Yankees team Thursday afternoon, allowing three hits in three scoreless innings.  He said he tried to keep his sinker down the zone, which resulted in a steady diet of ground balls.

“I tried to work it a lot today and I think the results kind of showed with the ground balls,” he said. “When the defense is playing good and throwing strikes, it’s always a good combo.”

Harrell also attacked the strike zone more than his first outing of the spring.

“So the big thing I was trying to do was attack the strike zone and get early contact and also throw a lot of strike one,” he said.

Harrell threw 20 more pitches in the bullpen to get more work in.

“I was hoping I could go another inning,” he said. “I was hoping to get up to 50 pitches. I told [pitching coach Doug Brocail] before the game my goal is to try to throw around 50 pitches. You try to be efficient but sometimes at Spring Training it works the other way. You want to go ahead and throw the 50 pitches, but you also want to get those pitches in against live batters.”

Game 1: Astros hit, run, pitch way past Phillies

What happened: The Astros bashed out 14 hits, including a home run by Brandon Barnes, and got some solid pitching across the board to beat the Phillies, 8-3, in their Grapefruit League opener and American League debut (boxscore) on Saturday. After practicing their post-game handshake for two weeks, the Astros finally got a chance to use with their first win of the spring.

“Offensively these guys swung the bats and ran the bases great,” manager Bo Porter said. “I think base running was a key factor in the game and it put a lot of pressure on the other team and created more scoring opportunities for us.”

What we learned: The Astros are going to be aggressive. They stole four bases early in the game, including a double steal by Tyler Greene and Trevor Crowe in the third inning, and Porter says they will force the issue and put pressure on opponents as much as possible.

“It’s a staple of our team,” Porter said. “I told the guys earlier on in the spring that if you want to find out an identity of a ballclub, watch them run the bases. It’s aggressive, but it’s controlled aggression, and we are only going to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented in front of us.”

What we learned II: RHP Jarred Cosart does OK in pressure. Cosart, the right-hander who’s battling for a spot on the club, returned to Clearwater to face his former team and pitched two perfect innings, overcoming some nerves in the bullpen prior to the game. He was acquired by Houston from the Phillies in 2011. Cosart had good arm speed on his changeup and was locating his fastball well.

“I felt great,” he said. “I was a little worried in the bullpen. It was a little off down there. Originally, I was supposed to come in in the fourth and that didn’t work out and they wanted to get Xavier [Cedeno] some work with some lefties and face [Ryan] Howard and some other guys. That kind of threw me off. I got in there and was a little sporadic in the bullpen. Nerves had something to do with that. When I got out there, it was clicking pretty well and I was getting the ball out of my glove, which is what we had been working on all Spring Training. I’m ecstatic.”

What we learned III: Barnes is a gamer. Barnes made a good first impression by hitting Houston’s first homer of the spring and throwing out a runner at the plate from center field. Here’s video of the homer.

“I’m just going to come out here and play as hard as I can,” Barnes said. “I went out to winter ball and worked on some things, and I’m just trying to carry it over here and keep going. We’re going to make a good push at this and we’re going to work hard every day.”

What else: RHP Lucas Harrell had a few mechanical issues, but for the most part he kept the ball down and made it through two innings and got in his work in his first start (Harrell video here). … OF Robbie Grossman made a nice impression by going 2-for-3, and 2B Marwin Gonzalez also went 2-for-3. … RHP Josh Zeid, RHP Sam Demel and LHP Xavier Cedeno each threw a scoreless inning.

What went wrong: The Astros had one mental mistake in the first inning. With Howard at at-bat and a shift moving another infielder to the right side of the second base, Chase Utley was able to advance two bases when no one covered third on a ball hit between first and second.

What they said: “It always feels good when you play well. More importantly, we played clean baseball. There were no errors, we swung the bat well and our situational hitting was good. Defensively, we made the plays we were supposed to make, and when you do those things right it gives you the best chance to win ballgames.” — manager Bo Porter.

What’s next: RHP Bud Norris takes the mound for the Astros in their first home game of Grapefruit League play at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday against the Mets at Osceola County Stadium. He’s scheduled to throw two innings. Second baseman Jose Altuve, catcher Jason Castro, outfielder Rick Ankiel and designated hitter Carlos Pena, all of whom didn’t make the trip to Clearwater on Saturday, are scheduled to get their first game action.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (sprained ankle) and catcher Max Stassi (oblique) continue to progress.

Links of the day: Astros notebook has Carlos Correa’s thoughts as he hits camp, some thoughts on how the Astros are going to get creative with their pitching staff in the Minor Leagues and much more.

The day in photos:

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Bo Porter warms up his arm.

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Bo Porter gets interviewed.

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The future: Jarred Cosart, George Springer and Delino DeShields.

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Jeff Murphy and Ryan Howard.

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Bo Porter throws batting practice.

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