On Sunday, the Houston Astros traveled to Jupiter to take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Although pitching looked lackluster for Houston, right-hander Ryan Pressly dominated in his first outing of spring training.
The relief pitcher went one inning, fanning the three batters he faced, early in the game. While left-hander Kent Emmanuel opened the game with three strikeouts in two innings of work. These two were the most dominant of the seven total pitchers to hit the bump on Sunday.
While only being his first appearance, Astros relief pitcher Ryan Pressly makes the case to be the closer.
The Astros closing job might come down to closer by committee, but to start the season when games are close in the ninth, the ball should be given to Pressly. Although having one good outing and also having a rough 2020, Pressly will enter 2021 knowing his role. While mainly being an out-by-contact pitcher in past seasons, the right-hander shows a lot of strength and battle behind his pitching with three consecutive strikeouts; 14 total pitches, 10 strikes.
His strikeout per nine innings was the second highest of his career in 2020 at 12.4, but walks and runs were hurting him in the long run. While mainly being a setup man, Pressly has been an All-Star relief pitcher for the Astros and a steal from the Minnesota Twins. This high strikeout rate is needed in the bullpen due to the lack of flamethrower arms, but there is another name in contention for the closer spot: Steve Cishek.
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The non-roster invite was signed to a minor-league deal, but the amount of money signed for and experience behind the sidewinder hints to him making the 40-man roster. While also having Framber Valdez and Forrest Whitley possibly hitting the injured list, there is a spot for him to slip in. To start the season, Pressly has the best chance to trot it out to mound in the ninth, but over time, Cishek will get into the mix.
Pressly was also a teammate of Jake Odorizzi, while in Minnesota. He has nothing but praise for the right-hander, explaining his humbleness and hard working attitude toward the game. The Astros locked down Odorizzi for the next two season, after being the longest outed starting pitcher still in free agency. He is expected to be the needed help in the middle of the rotation, after Valdez’s injury.
The Astros did fall to the Cardinals in this game, 8-5, as not many of the players stood out in this long nine-inning game. They are back on the field on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals at 5:05 p.m. with Lance McCullers Jr. scheduled to start.