When the Houston Astros traded for Francisco Liriano, they did so thinking that bigger things were on the way.
We will delve further into what has come to light after the trade deadline later today. The Astros traded for Francisco Liriano to be a reliever, not a starter like he has 18 times this year for Toronto.
Before last night’s appearance in the seventh inning, he has only pitched in relief 29 times in his 12-year career. Before he settled in as a starter in 2006, he was a reliever. He went on to finish third for AL Rookie of the Year in 2006.
After last night, Liriano makes his 30th appearance out of the bullpen in his 303rd MLB game. He is a 33-year-old starter trying to reinvent himself in the Astros bullpen. According to Mark Eisenhauer, manager A.J. Hinch was worried about how Liriano would handle back to back games or more frequent appearances. It helps that Liriano understands his role on this team.
Why he could have struggled.
Liriano started Saturday for the Blue Jays, so he was technically on normal rest for a starter. Most people were not excited about trading for Liriano but were eager to see how he fared in his first appearance. Don’t eliminate the butterflies from pitching for a new team in a new role as well.
With the injuries to Will Harris and Tony Sipp, plus the recent struggles of the bullpen, adds the extra pressure for Liriano. The Astros targeted him to be that lefty specialist instead of Sipp. With this being his first appearance as a reliever, he has not developed the routine to get ready for a short appearance yet. It takes time for the transition.
When he came onto pitch, the Astros only had a 3-2 lead. Without being a Liriano apologist, it was a tough spot for him to begin his career in Houston. He was able to retire the right-handed Adeiny Hechavarría with a fly out. However, he struggled versus the next two lefty hitters.
The Astros thought that he would be good as the lefty specialist with left-handed hitters hitting .228 off him. Last night, he allowed a single and a walk that went on to saddle him with the loss. Chris Devenski tried to shut things down, but they scored three runs in the seventh.
It takes time!
While he may not be the answer for the Astros, you can’t determine this after only ten pitches. As Mike Stanton tweeted last night, it’s hard to make the shift to short reliever from starting.
The good news is that the Astros have about two months to get the bullpen where they want it to be. Until someone stands out, we will see constant movement in the bullpen. According to Brian McTaggart, James Hoyt is back up with Jordan Jankowski going back down.
The bullpen is a mess. The Astros hope that Liriano can help this team win. It may take a few appearances, but he can bring the heat for short spurts. Last night he threw a 95 mph pitch. Let’s see how he bounces back next time.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***