A little over a year ago the Astros added a 23-year old right-hander from the Dominican to their 40-man roster. Jose Cisnero was coming off an outstanding season (13-7, 3.70 ERA, 9.0 K/9 IP) between AA Corpus and AAA OKC. In his first action above the High-A level, Cisnero was so impressive that the Astros decided to make the youngster part of their future plans.
Cisnero had worked primarily as a starter throughout his career and appeared to have an outside shot at making the Astros rotation to begin the 2013 season. Jose saw a limited amount of mound time in Spring Training and was sent to AAA to start the regular season. But it wasn’t long before he got the call to join the big league club.
Cisnero made his major league debut on April 22, tossing 3 & 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mariners in a 7-1 loss. Jose continued to pitch effectively in a long relief role (mostly in games in which the Astros had fallen way behind) for the next month or so. Then, Bo Porter began to call upon the youngster in more meaningful situations.
With a fastball in the low 90’s that touched 95 or 96 on occasion — as well as a slider, curve, and nasty changeup — Cisnero had a complete arsenal that enabled him to keep hitters off-balance. His stuff was, in my opinion, as good as anyone’s on the staff. But all of a sudden, around the fourth of July, things started to go south for Cisnero. He began to have control problems and was unable to succeed as a late inning reliever.
His struggles continued, and Cisnero was optioned to Oklahoma City in early August. Jose was unable to right the ship and spent the rest of the season at AAA. When it was all said and done Cisnero’s 2013 season has to be considered a disappointment.
Jose is pitching in his homeland this winter, working as a short reliever. So far, in only four appearances, his results have been mixed. Can Cisnero bounce back and become a contributor in the Astros bullpen in 2014? My guess is he will get his chance, but not until he shows some signs of life in the minors.