The early-season injury to closer Roberto Osuna, who is out for the remainder of the year with a right arm injury, thrust setup man Ryan Pressly into the closer’s role, which didn’t start out smoothly. He blew his first save opportunity on Aug. 6 in Arizona and two more on Aug. 11 and Sept. 1, but the Astros right-hander has been nails down the stretch.
Since his last blown save against the Rangers, Pressly has pitched in nine games and has gone 6-for-6 in save opportunities with a 2.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 11 batters in that span, walked three and hasn’t allowed a homer. He’s converted 11 of his last 12 save chances.
“Better late than never, right?” Pressly said. “It’s been difficult, like I said, this year to get into a rhythm. It’s not an excuse because everybody has to go through it. I just had to get better. I’m starting to round into form a little bit, and I’m glad I’m starting to get in that groove and now we go. It’s going to be a fun little run at the end.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker said pitching coach Brent Strom worked with Pressly to make some changes, which has led to better fastball control and a better slider. Strom said some misplaced breaking balls and some soft contact hurt Pressly earlier in the year.
“Obviously, when you’re the closer, the small sample size becomes exaggerated, but we have faith in Pressly,” Strom said. “This is an All-Star pitcher [in 2019]. He’s overcome some injuries in his lower half, his knee in particular. … [Bullpen coach] Josh Miller has worked extremely hard with Pressly on posture and some things, and Press took to it.”
Paredes adjusts to bullpen role
The huge amount of injuries the Astros have had to endure with their pitching staff has given some youngsters opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The Astros have liked what they’ve gotten from lefty reliever Blake Taylor and right-handers Enoli Paredes and Andre Scrubb in their Major League debuts, and they could get their first postseason experience next week.
The emergence of Paredes, 24, has been a positive story from injury mess. The Dominican had never pitched above Double-A prior to this season, but he has posted a 2.79 ERA in 20 games, holding lefties to a .125 average (5-for-40). Right-handers have hit him around a bit more (.375 average), but he’s still learning how to get ready in the bullpen after being groomed as a starter.
“One of the challenges is to get ready with all my pitches,” Paredes said. “When you come in as a reliever late in the game, you have to be ready to throw every pitch. That’s one of my challenges. ... You have to know what pitches are working that day and come with that plan to the game.”
The 5-foot-11 Paredes has turned to a fellow Dominican for advance -- 43-year-old Fernando Rodney, a former All-Star who signed with the Astros earlier this year and was assigned to the alternate training site before being released. The two knew each other prior to that, considering they’re both from the same hometown, Samana, D.R.
“I sent him some texts, and he helped me a lot,” Paredes said. “He said you have to be ready from the first inning. You don’t know when you’re going to pitch so you have to prepare your body. ... I’m moving and doing some exercises back there so when they go to the bullpen and call my name, I’m ready to go.”
Paredes said he can be ready to enter a game after throwing only five warmup pitches, but he spends a few innings using stretching bands and a medicine ball to stay loose.
“I can get ready quick,” he said.