The Astros’ have just two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the battle between three lefties for a spot in the bullpen will come down to the wire.
As Spring Training is winding down, the Astros‘ 25-man roster is getting closer to being finalized. Brad Peacock appears to be separating himself from the pack in the race for the 5th starting position. But a spot for a left-handed reliever is still up for grabs. Cionel Perez, Reymin Guduan and Framber Valdez are fighting it out with little time left to show their stuff.
Perez, just 22 years of age, finally got into action pitching in his first Spring Training game of the season. He was put on an individualized throwing program that delayed his Spring debut, essentially removing him as a starting candidate. This may have put Perez behind the curve, but he wasted no time impressing A. J. Hinch throwing a perfect inning in the fifth.
"“Very good first game,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “The ball came out of his hand really hot, which was important. His stuff was really good. His misses were near misses. I couldn’t have asked for a better first day.”"
Although Guduan and Valdez got a head start, Hinch is going to give Perez as many outings he can squeeze in these final two weeks. “He has no more room for error,” Hinch said. “We only have under two weeks left. He’ll pitch in a couple days again, over the weekend. A couple days after that, he’s got to make a quick impression.”
Guduan has already been padding his resume with an impressive Spring. The 26-year-old has appeared in six games and has a 3.00 ERA while striking out ten batters in just six innings. He pitched in just three games last year but showed great improvement over the performance in his previous season, lowering his ERA to 2.70 from the 7.88 he amassed in his 22 appearances in 2017.
Valdez, once considered a starting candidate, has had a little rougher Spring Training. In four games he has given up thirteen hits and six runs in just 9.1 innings producing an inflated 5.79 ERA. Valdez has had some trouble locating his pitches, walking five and hitting one batter. His pitches have typically been up in the strike zone, allowing hitters to get ahead in the count and then teeing off on him.
These final two weeks will be very telling as to which one of these prospects will win out for that last spot in the bullpen and as Hinch stated earlier, there is “no room for error”.