For most of the 2013 season it seemed that Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell was just on the verge of becoming an ace caliber pitcher. He had rocky starts that were very rocky but when he was on he was lights out. His record wasn’t good because of the team he plays for and his ERA stunk because of the bad outings. Anyone that saw his many good outings could not pretend not to notice that Harrell is the real deal. So naturally he got moved to the bullpen.
Whether or not you are shocked by the move that came a while ago, Harrell was surprised for sure. He thought he was doing well in the previous role as starter and he is half right. Unfortunately he is also half wrong. The Astros wanted him to go to the bullpen to work out his consistency problems so that he can be better in the future. We would all be naïve if we didn’t realize that it also gave the Astros a chance to look at other young up and coming pitching prospects.
So has Harrell permanently lost his spot as a starter? I don’t believe he has. The first several relief outings were not very good but in just the last few there have been good signs. His ERA is around the mid two mark and his WHIP is below one. WHIP is even more important in a relief role because of the limited time he is in the game.
When and if Harrell gets back to the role he wants as a starter will likely depend on him. If he dominates out there in relief then the Astros will probably stretch him out next spring and take a look at him in the starting role. If he stumbles and shows zero signs of getting better from here on out, they might just cut the starter role all together. At least Harrell can know that some of his fate is in his hands.