Aug 19, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Houston Astros catcherJason Castro
(15) and relief pitcherChad Qualls
(50) shake hands after defeating the New York Yankees in a game at Yankee Stadium. The Astros defeated the Yankees 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Football is over, and the attention is about to turn over to baseball once again. We’ve taken the time at Climbing Tal’s Hill to look at how the rotation could shape up, as well as who the Astros could have on their bench. Now, we look at who might round out the bullpen for Houston. You can pencil in five guys in the Astros bullpen, and assuming there are seven total men in the bullpen, that leaves two spots wide open.
Let’s start off by saying I love that the Astros upgraded the bullpen in the nature that they did, as it’s not a fight in camp for three or more bullpen roles like in years past. The fact the Astros only have two legitimate spots left to fill speaks volume on how much this team has improved.
First, let’s look at the five men who will be counted on the most when the team is in a tight situation. As long as these five men are healthy, they’re on the Opening Day Roster.
Chad Qualls: Last year’s closer in Houston is back, but maybe not as the closer anymore. That doesn’t phase Qualls though, as he played a huge part in recruiting the new-comers onto the team. All he is worried about is winning, and in the words of A.J. Hinch, he is “all in.” Qualls threw the least amount of innings of his career last year since his rookie season in 2004, so he very well could be in for a big season, no matter what role he is in.
Tony Sipp: Sipp came over to Houston one month into the season in 2014, and he was wonderful. He was the go-to guy out of the bullpen for a good majority of the season, and even played a little bit of Left Field because of some double switches to stay in games so he could come back on the mound. He should have some of the workload taken off him in 2015, which could definitely make him more dangerous to the opposing teams.
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Luke Gregerson: Gregerson came over as one of two big moves to help out the bullpen and help turn it over from being the worst in baseball. He’s had some trouble in the closer’s role in the past, but has had good success as a set-up man. With 154 Holds in his career, the Astros know he will at least be able to get them to the next inning with the lead intact more often than not. He will probably be given the chance to close again while in an Astros uniform, and that is something that I look forward to.
Pat Neshek: Neshek was the second move on the same day as the Gregerson signing to help out the Astros bullpen. He’s coming off of a career year in St. Louis, making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. He also got the first six saves of his career, meaning he’s also another potential candidate to close games. The man with the funky delivery knows success from his time in Oakland and St. Louis, and he’ll do everything he can to bring that success to the Astros organization as well.
Josh Fields: Fields has been looked at as a potential closer candidate in the past when the Astros had a rocky bullpen, and he has the velocity to be successful. He made huge strides last year with his control. He walked one less batter (17) in 16.2 more innings pitched than his rookie season, and struck out 30 more batters, 70 overall. His strike out rate was 11.5 per 9 innings, and if he keeps that up, he might end up the closer’s role with the other four guys setting him up for success.