Lucas Harrell, who started the season as one of the few pieces the Astros were sure about at the start of the season, was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen on Sunday.
Astros manager Bo Porter hoped more frequent work would help the right-hander find the form that made him a foundation piece for the rotation heading into the 2013 season. Harrell is 5-9 with a 5.04 ERA this season.
“I think it’s more a combination of wanting him to get down to the bullpen and get some things figured out,” Porter said. “This guy was one of our better pitchers last year. For whatever reason there’s been a lot of inconsistency, and our hope is to be able to have more outings as far as not just pitching once every five days but get more outings in a five-day period and hopefully we can get it straightened out much faster.”
More than the record, though, it’s been Harrell’s struggles to consistently throw strikes that’s plagued him this year. Harrell has issued 53 walks in 103 2/3 innings this year compared with 78 in 193 2/3 innings last year.
He just finished his best month of the season, walking 10 batters in 36 1/3 June innings. He finished the month with an ERA of 3.22.
But in his first July start, he struggled mightily, giving up nine runs (seven earned) and throwing more strikes than balls in a rocky 3 2/3 inning start against Texas on Friday. It was that inconsistency that led Porter to make the move.
The Astros have off days on Monday and Thursday next week heading into the All Star break, have committed only to having Bud Norris start on Tuesday and Jordan Lyles start on Wednesday. Porter said an announcement about who would start the final three games before break would be made later.
If Harrell’s replacement were to come from a current member of the Astros bullpen, the likely candidates would be Paul Clemens and Jose Cisnero, who each started games in Oklahoma City this year before transitioning to the bullpen with the Astros.