Help is on the way. I am not sure that this will solve the Astros’ bullpen woes, but it is a start. There is some hope now that Josh Zeid and Chia-Jen Lo will be joining Houston’s bullpen Tuesday night in Baltimore.
Aside from Rhiner Cruz and Josh Fields, for the most part we have been forced to live through mediocre and below average at best options in the bullpen. And despite their youth and potential, both pitchers were retreads to some degree and were given up on and left exposed by their previous teams in the Rule 5 draft.
Granted this year Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Brad Peacock, and Brett Oberholtzer have found their way into the bullpen, but none had previous relieving experience. They were essentially a last resort for Bo Porter as there really were no other options left. And since the starting pitchers were lucky to get through five innings, Porter needed his relievers to eat some innings.
But now with Zeid and Lo, young relievers who have potential and relieving experience, are available for Porter to call on. Jose Cisnero will now likely be the closer with the trade of Jose Veras, so there are three relievers in the bullpen that potentially could have a place on the Astros in the future.
The Astros acquired Zeid in what might turn out to be the best trade they have made since they became extreme sellers. Houston turned Hunter Pence into Zeid, Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and outfield prospect Domingo Santana.
The 26-year old right hander has a live arm and prior to last season had experience both as a starter and a reliever. Zeid spent all of last season in AA and recorded a 5.59 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP while appearing in 47 games. The most important thing for a reliever to do is get outs when you need them, and Zeid proved that by striking out 66 batters in 56.1 innings.
This season Zeid has spent the entire year in AAA and has gotten a chance to close some games and he has 13 saves. The strikeouts have remained a constant as he has struck out 53 batters in 43.2 innings. He has seen his ERA go down this season to a more respectable 3.50. The biggest factor in Zeid’s improvement is that his strand rate of 78.2% as compared to 63.4% last season.
Porter will likely gradually bring Zeid into pressure situations, but I do like what I have seen out of the reliever this season. He can strike batters out and keep baserunners from scoring. The question now, is to see how this translates to the major leagues.
Chia-Jen Lo was a free agent signing for the Astros and he made his debut in 2009 in professional baseball. Lo came with some potential, but he got hurt, and almost lost in the lower levels on the minor leagues. It almost seemed like he was forgotten about.
Lo has 7 games in 2010 and 8 games this season in AA under his belt as his highest level of professional baseball. He has been used strictly as a reliever and has limited closing experience. I am going to limit my expectations here due to the lack of a track record, but he is a pitcher to keep an eye on going forward.
Zeid and Lo might not be the answers in the bullpen for the Astros. But at least it is something. They are young, have life to their arms, and have some potential. That is not a combination we have seen much of in the bullpen so far this season.