Prior to yesterday’s game, manager Bo Porter told Lucas Harrell that he was being removed from the starting rotation and sent to the Astros bullpen. The news of the move remained in-house until after the game when Porter and Harrell spoke to members of the media. Harrell told reporters “I was completely shocked and caught off guard by it”. He went on to say “it is what it is”. Even though he had plenty of time to prepare his thoughts prior to speaking, Harrell’s comments weren’t exactly what one would expect to hear from a 28-year old professional who has been in the big leagues off-and-on since 2010.
I’ve always been a big fan of Lucas — or should I say: a big fan of his stuff. Harrell has talent, but his attitude this season has left a lot to be desired. When he has a bad outing Harrell is quick to try and transfer blame. He has complained about the Astros defensive positioning on more than one occasion and his body language on the mound when things aren’t going his way resemble that of a little leaguer.
I’m growing tired of his antics and I’m sure Porter is too. But, regardless of how he has acted, Harrell’s demotion can be justified on performance alone. In his most recent outing Harrell walked the first batter he faced and gave up a homerun to the next hitter. In the second inning he walked two consecutive batters before coughing up a grand slam to Nelson Cruz. That kind of performance is going to earn most pitchers a demotion — just ask Erik Bedard.
After a similar outing back in early May, Bedard was exiled to the Astros ‘pen. But, unlike Harrell, the 34-year old veteran didn’t whine about it or point fingers. Bedard worked his way back into the rotation and has been a dependable starter ever since. In fact, Bedard walked a pair of batters in the first inning of yesterday’s game and promptly served up a 3-run homer to A.J. Pierzynski. The difference was, Bedard battled back and kept his team in the game — giving them a chance to win. Bedard gutted it out for 6 & 1/3 innings and remained focused even after an error by Jose Altuve put him behind the 8-ball.
On Saturday, Harrell moped around the mound and continued to serve up batting practice until he was removed from the game in the fourth inning. The Astros never had much of a chance to win that one.
Harrell’s demotion may come as a shock to many Astros fans as well. But it is the right move. With only five games left until the All-Star break and two off days in between, the Astros only need four starters. Harrell may only miss a start or two if he can work things out in the bullpen with coaches Dennis Martinez and Doug Brocail.
Harrell would also be well advised to work on his attitude and being a better teammate.
Perhaps the trade rumors that have popped up in recent weeks have been a contributing factor to Harrell’s inability to stay focused. His continued struggles have definitely decreased his trade value and I would say it is highly unlikely that he will be dealt before the deadline.
Like I said earlier, Harrell is a talented pitcher. He is also a fine young man whose charitable efforts are well documented. But he needs to regain his focus and stop blaming others for his poor performance. The message has been delivered. It’s time for Lucas Harrell to grow up.