When it was announced that Lucas Harrell would start in the Houston Astros‘ Spring Training opener, I made mention that he had a huge hill to climb to work his way back into starting rotation contention. Well, for all intents and purposes, he climbed that hill. But that was only half of the trial. Now he has to prove that he can consistently pitch in a professional ball club’s rotation.
To regain his 2012 form would be a dream for Harrell, whose 11-11 record with a 3.76 ERA is still mildly amazing on a 100-loss club. But everything he created in 2012 was undone in 2013 to the tune of 5-12 with a 5.98 ERA as a starter.
With all that in mind, the Astros really have zero idea which Harrell could show up on a daily basis. On a team that is brimming with inconsistency, that does not bode well. It’s up to Harrell to prove to the world that he can be a consistent starter and that 2012 wasn’t just a fluke. Going 1-2 with a 7.80 ERA in 15 innings in Spring Training didn’t exactly help his case either; it was just better than the immediate competition.
Harrell has to be on a short leash from the Astros’ standpoint. A handful of starts should be enough of a sample size to see what he’s all about. He won’t have as much opportunity as he did in 2013, especially with so many guys in the minors who narrowly missed the cut of making the starting rotation.
That kind of pressure can wear on a player, particularly one like Harrell who frequently chats with/scolds himself on the mound. It will be interesting to see what he does. Suffice to say it would be a welcome sight to see another 2012 out of the enigmatic righty.