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Lefty prospect Perez called up by Astros

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

ST. PETERSBURG -- Needing an extra arm in the bullpen, the Astros called up left-handed pitching prospect Cionel Perez from Double-A Corpus Christi prior to Friday's game against the Rays to take the roster spot of shortstop Carlos Correa, who was placed on the disabled list with a sore back.

Perez, the Astros' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, struck out 71 batters in 57 1/3 innings at Corpus Christi, going 5-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 games (10 starts). Since making his professional debut last year, he's struck out 154 batters and walked 48 in 151 innings.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Needing an extra arm in the bullpen, the Astros called up left-handed pitching prospect Cionel Perez from Double-A Corpus Christi prior to Friday's game against the Rays to take the roster spot of shortstop Carlos Correa, who was placed on the disabled list with a sore back.

Perez, the Astros' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, struck out 71 batters in 57 1/3 innings at Corpus Christi, going 5-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 games (10 starts). Since making his professional debut last year, he's struck out 154 batters and walked 48 in 151 innings.

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"He's an exciting young player," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We saw him in the spring and he's had a terrific first half at Double-A. He just pitched in [Tuesday's Texas League] All-Star game and can provide a little bit of depth and length in the bullpen if we need him the next couple of games. I don't know how long his stay will be, but he's a good, young, exciting pitcher we're excited about."

Perez was told he was heading to the big leagues by Corpus Christi manager Omar Lopez prior to Thursday's game in what Perez called a "beautiful moment." Perez lives in Tampa and said his father and girlfriend were set to attend his debut.

"I'm excited for my first time in the big leagues," he said. "It surprised me a lot. It was something I did not expect and I'm very excited."

The 22-year-old signed with the Astros in 2016 out of Cuba. He originally agreed to a $5.15 million deal, but the Astros voided the deal because of concerns about his elbow. Perez two months later signed for $2 million. Perez's strength is a mid-90s fastball that has sink, along with a slider he's worked to throw harder.

"I worked on my physical conditioning more than anything else and also my secondary pitches, specifically my slider and the shape of my slider and throwing my slider harder, as well as my fastball command," Perez said.

The Astros still plan to develop Perez as a starter, though it's difficult to crack the Astros' five-man rotation this year.

"We're excited about him as a potential starter down the road," Hinch said. "Our need now is in the 'pen, and that's where he'll get his innings, if I can get him in there."

Perez's stay with the Astros could be short, depending on the timing of veteran reliever Joe Smith's rehab outing. Smith, who's on the disabled list with elbow soreness, was scheduled to throw one inning Friday at Corpus Christi and could be activated in the next few days.

"It's possible we ask [Smith] to do a second relief outing in a couple of days depending on how it goes tonight," Hinch said. "We want him to feel like he went through an outing, have a little bit of endurance built up, use both his pitches and then we'll determine whether he's ready now or we wait until the next series."

Worth noting
Correa flew to back Houston to be examined by the team's spinal doctors and will rejoin the club Tuesday in Arlington. He's eligible to come off the disabled list next Friday.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Cionel Perez