Flashback to 2012: Young pitcher Lucas Harrell is on the up and up, making a name for himself on a Houston Astros rebuilding squad as a young, exciting pitcher. Fast forward to Saturday night, and you find a man standing on the mound who could not be further removed.
The struggles of the Astros’ pitching staff, the bullpen in particular, are well documented. The ‘pen is mired at the bottom of the majors with an ERA floating around 5.00, and when starters like Harrell are performing so poorly that they have to be demoted to the relief position, then the model of the overall pitching corps looks even more grim.
Harrell has just tumbled further and further down from his season’s beginnings. His style is more raw and sensational than controlled, and when it works, it works very well. When he’s off, however, things become very messy.
Baseball is a sport entirely based on confidence. A pitcher needs to begin every game with the self belief that he is going to control his repertoire, send batters back to the dugout with their tails between their legs and come away with a win. Harrell just doesn’t have that. He is as emotionally reliant as any player in the league, and when his self-assurance is gone, so too is his game.
Harrell commented after another blown game on Saturday night that he is aware that continually piecing together shoddy outings will lead to his demotion from the lineup. His appearance on the hill any given night these days fails to elicit hope from any of the Astros’ staff, fans or players.
You have to wonder that if he is sent down to the minors, traded or released, if he would ever recover his confidence. It doesn’t seem likely that he would.
The man is talented. But in baseball business, the empathetic feelings can only go so far.