Astros: Chris Devenski appears to have earned bullpen spot

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Chris Devenski #47 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Miami Marlins during a Grapefruit League spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 25, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Chris Devenski #47 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Miami Marlins during a Grapefruit League spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 25, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros reliever Chris Devenski seems to have earned a chance at redemption.

After two consecutive subpar seasons, Chris Devenski was in danger of losing his roster spot. The former Houston Astros relief ace struggled through the 2018 and 2019 seasons and appeared in only one postseason series in either year — the 2019 World Series, in which he allowed three runs in three innings.

To be fair, he struggled in the 2017 postseason as well, to the point that he’s allowed 11 runs in 11 total playoff innings in his career. Maybe that’s where the wheels started coming off, and whatever struggles he had during the run to the World Series carried over through the following two seasons.

Those struggles manifested themselves in a much higher rate of hits allowed. He was difficult to hit at his peak in 2016 and 2017, allowing a little more than six hits per nine innings over those two seasons. He kept the ball in the park and didn’t walk too many guys, resulting in a low WHIP and the corresponding low ERAs of 2.16 and 2.68 for those two seasons.

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But the past two seasons that hit rate rose to around 8.6 per nine, and his home run rate spiked as well. He was viewed by ERA+ as a league average or slightly below average pitcher, forcing manager AJ Hinch to turn to other pitchers in key situations.

Turning Point?

With his roster spot no longer guaranteed, Devenski came into Spring Training 19 pounds lighter than he played at last season. In what is admittedly a small sample, he saw much improved results in his five spring appearances, not allowing a run over 5.1 innings.

In that span, he gave up four hits and one walk, which works out to 6.8 hits per nine and a 0.938 WHIP. Again, this is a very small sample, but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see him allow fewer baserunners and have numbers more closely resembling his earlier campaigns.

Whether that translates to the regular season remains to be seen. We still don’t know when the season will start or how much time players will have to get ready. But it looks like Devenski is all but guaranteed to be in the bullpen on Opening Day.

The Astros will be more than happy to have the old Devenski back. Let’s hope the pitcher we saw in Spring Training is the one we see when the real games begin.

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