Jose Cisnero (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
Now not even the most optimistic Astros fan thought the bullpen was going to be a success this season, but this has just been brutal. We know all about Hector Ambriz, so I’m not going to get into that. But no one else has stepped up either.
Paul Clemens came out of the gates strong and played an important role for the Astros in the early part of the season, but it seems that has caught up to him as he now sports a 5.24 ERA (entering Friday’s game). That is on par with how the whole bullpen has performed this year. There are little stretches of optimism, but that’s about it.
Prior to being sent to the minors, Rhiner Cruz pitched in 14 games and logged a 4.40 ERA. Of pitchers currently in the bullpen, Wesley Wright and his 4.41 ERA is the lowest aside from Veras and Cisnero entering action Friday night.
Cisnero was signed by the Astros as a free agent in December of 2007 and he made his professional debut in 2009 playing in Rookie Ball. Until he got the call to to Houston this season, Cisnero worked as a starter, pitching to varying levels of success in each level of the organization. But he was never considered a top prospect.
The Astros called the 24-year old up in early April because they were running out of arms. Starting pitchers were lucky if they were able to get out of the fifth inning and getting outs was at a premium. But the more pressing need, was just for a pitcher that could eat some innings, and Cisnero was that guy thanks to his experience as a starting pitcher.
What happened was a pleasant surprise. Starting out in the role of mop up guy and long reliever, Cisnero excelled and his role continued to grow. So far this season the right hander has a 2.87 ERA over 37.2 innings with 37 strikeouts. Whenever Bo Porter has given him the ball, Cisnero has shown the ability to get outs, preserve leads, or limit damage.
With the trading deadline less than two weeks away, Cisnero could become even more valuable for the Astros in the bullpen.
Given the lack of proven veteran relievers in the back ends of bullpens across baseball, Veras is a valuable commodity. That along with the fact that he has had success this season and is not part of Houston’s future plans makes him a prime trade candidate. And that is perfectly fine with me.
All that means, is that Porter must find someone to take over ninth inning duties. Although it may have been an unlikely choice to start the season, right now Cisnero is the only pitcher deserving of that role.