Harrell working out hard for Astros' season
As the Houston Astros make their historic move to an American League West division loaded with offensive power, their full starting rotation is still to be determined. Right-handers Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles appear to have the inside track in the starting rotation but no spots are guaranteed.
Harrell was claimed off waivers by the Astros in 2011 and appeared in six games for Houston at the end of the season. He then earned a spot in the starting rotation last season and went 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts and was named Astros' Rookie of the Year.
With newly acquired John Ely, Alex White, Dallas Keuchel, Phillip Humber, Erik Bedard and Brad Peacock, as well as top Astros pitching prospect, Jarred Cosart, in the mix for a spot in the rotation, Harrell feels no job is ever safe. He moved to Houston in the offseason – not only because of the weather, but to work out at his home ballpark as well, which he feels was advantageous.
After inviting CSN Houston to join him during one of his morning workouts, Harrell sat down to talk about his offseason and the upcoming season.
On why it has been advantageous to live so close to his team's facility:
Just being around here, seeing all the front office people every day – it never hurts when you're here, especially as a younger guy trying to make a name for yourself. They see, "Hey, this guy's working out, he's taking it seriously, he wants it. You've got some guys in here right now and you see them working out and it's like they motivate you to get better because you want to be on that next level with them.
On what his goals were during the offseason:
To go into spring training healthy and ready. We have a lot of guys we brought in, so there's going to be a lot of competition in spring training. It's one of those things where I want to be overly prepared and so when I get there, they'll be like, “Hey, this guy came in he wants it. He's ready for the season.”
His assessment of his 2012 performance:
If I do it on a scale of A, B, C, D, I'd give it a C probably just because there's a lot I can improve upon. I think baseball is more of a team game and I want to be on a team that wins. So, I base my season on how the team did and we struggled, so I feel like I struggled. I want to win 90 games every year and I want to be on a playoff team, so probably a C. There's a lot I need to work on to get better as a pitcher and as a teammate as well, so hopefully this offseason the maturity level of getting older will help me with that.
What he is specifically trying to improve for this season:
Consistency with my curve ball is the big thing. Last year I felt like at times, if I would've had my curve ball in certain situations, it would've helped me out. It wasn't very good most of the year. A couple starts I had it was good, but the big thing for me was if my sinker was good on both sides of the plate most of the year. That's the thing I want to make even better for this year – more consistency with that pitch. So, pitching-wise it's just maintaining my sinker and my changeup and then working on my cutter and my curve ball.
What he's specifically doing to work on those pitches:
I started my leg workouts. I've been doing a lot of isolation stuff to make my legs stronger and maybe that will help my arm get up. I feel like if you start with your legs and you build those up, it will help your arm out and it will help everything else out.
What he thinks of manager Bo Porter:
He's great. I explain him to everybody as a guy you start talking to, and by the time you're done, you're rocking back and forth and you're pumped up. You want to go lift weights. You want to go run. It's like you just watched an inspirational movie – you watched a Rocky or a The Miracle. You're so inspired. You want to go out and work out. So, having him being around this young group of guys – he's going to be great for us.
On whether or not the younger players he's been working out with (around) in the offseason are seeking his advice:
No, I try to learn from them. They're the ones trying to come up and take my spot, so I try to talk to them to find out the secrets they're doing that's making them get so good.
On moving to the American League:
It's going to be tough. It's going to be an adjustment. You've got teams like the Angels and the A's and Seattle and the Rangers. Those teams are all really good teams, so it'll be interesting to see how we do. I think we'll surprise people and I think we'll be better than what most people are projecting us to be.
On whether or not he has started preparing to face those big lineups in the AL West:
No, I'm not a big video guy when it comes to scouting reports. I like to watch in person. When we go to play them, I'll sit in the dugout the first few innings and I'll watch them because there are little things guys do that you can watch that kind of tell maybe they hit a pitch inside but maybe they're pulling off a little bit. You can see it in person whereas in video it's kind of like you mainly watch where the ball is when they hit it because it's from straight on, which from the side when you're looking at them from the dugout, you can see well maybe he's pulling the shoulders like this or something, so it just gives you a little bit of an idea of what the guy is doing.
The AL West players or teams he is most concerned about facing:
I don't know if there is a team I'm most concerned about facing because when I pitch, I try to go out there and pitch to my strengths. But I'm really excited to face the Angels actually with that lineup. They're one of the best lineups in baseball so it's a measuring stick. Us young guys, we want to see how we're going to do over the next few years and see if we can stay at this level. It's going to be one of those things where you're going to have to go out and perform against teams like that. So, if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best, and some of the teams in our division are some of the best teams in baseball.
On how he feels about not batting anymore:
I’m excited. I wasn't very good at hitting. It's a lot tougher than people think. Those guys are good for a reason. It's definitely going to be nice to have someone like Carlos Pena. I mean he'll probably hit 30+ home runs, so I would probably hit zero. So, having a guy who's going to hit home runs and score runs versus me who's not, it'll help me out and it will help the team out as well.
What he's doing out in the community this offseason:
My dad is a diabetic. A few years back he got diagnosed, so it's something that's close to me and it's something that I really hope to fundraise as much money as possible. Next year we're having our walk again here in Houston that we did for American Diabetes Association. I’m hoping next year we can raise even more money and have a bigger event.