The Sugar Land Skeeters welcomed a Jarred Kelenic-less Tacoma Rainiers on Saturday, as the top prospect traveled to Colorado for the Futures Game. This is the only time the two teams will meet for a series this year.
In the realm of rehab assignments on Friday, Austin Pruitt made his sixth appearance (fourth with the Skeeters), as the right-hander tossed three scoreless innings surrendering two hits to his two punch outs on 39 pitches. For Josh James, he made his fourth appearance (second with the Skeeters). The right-hander fanned two over 1.1 innings, allowing one run on one hit on 29 pitches.
Pruitt is nearing the end of his 30-day rehab stint, which should end on the 15th of July. He would most likely join the Houston Astros, after the All-Star break. This does leave room for one more possible appearance for a series that ends on Tuesday, the 13th.
Due to a banged up bullpen in 2020, Nivaldo Rodriguez was called up, which rushed his progressions.
Nivaldo Rodriguez came off the rubber for the Skeeters on Saturday, as he made his third start (seventh appearances) with the Skeeters this season. Through 13.2 innings, the right-hander entered competition with a 3.95 ERA, leaving with a 4.30 ERA.
With a depleted bullpen in 2020, Rodriguez was one of the select minor-league pitchers to be rushed to the show, as he never pitched past High-A. The right-hander never saw his ERA above 3.50 before joining the major-league club in 2020, where he posted a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings.
The right-hander is a product of injury, as he was tasked the role of backing up a major-league bullpen that was down key arms. This happened with Luis Garcia, but it hasn’t been as kind to Rodriguez.
On Saturday, the right-hander tossed one inning, surrending one run on two hits with a strikeout and two walks in 38 pitches. Rodriguez stranded the bases loaded, while working most counts full. It wasn’t an ideal outing from a starter, whose team has a doubleheader the following day.
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Command struggles continue to plague the 24-year-old, but it doesn’t seem plausible to send him to down to Double-A.
In a small sample size of 7.1 innings with the Astros this season, Rodriguez has a 2.45 ERA. He recently was activated from the temporary restricted list (leave of absence in minor leagues), so a long outing wasn’t expected but one inning wasn’t ideal.
With Pruitt looking to return post All-Star break, it leaves Rodriguez with adequate time to work in Triple-A, after being rushed to the show. With a nine-man bullpen in the works, the Astros can turn to Ryan Hartman, Enoli Paredes and Peter Solomon instead, even with Ralph Garza Jr. and Andre Scrubb most likely going back and forth.
A few pitchers have skipped Double-A in the Astros’ farm system, but it doesn’t look to be treating Rodriguez nicely. For many predominate relievers, you aren’t given as many opportunities to prove yourself, so don’t turn away from Rodriguez just yet. Although the first inning ran long, the Skeeters took home their first win of the series, 6-3.
Other hits around the farm:
Jake Meyers launched a 371-foot, three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. It put the Skeeters ahead by one and continued to push the agenda of the Astros’ having a deep outfielding room in the minor leagues.
J.P. France took the mound in the fourth inning, as he fanned 10 over five innings and surrendering one run on three hits and a walk on 71 pitches. The right-hander was assigned to the Corpus Christi Hooks on April 30, where he posted a 4.28 ERA in 33.2 innings. France currently has a 1.96 ERA through 18.1 innings with the Skeeters. With a fastball touching low 90s, he also has a 12-6 curveball that drops at around 70 MPH.
The Skeeters continue their series on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. with a doubleheader starting 30 minutes after the completion of the first game. For game one, Brett Conine matches up against left-hander Ian McKinney.