HOUSTON -- The Astros called up left-hander Cionel Pérez prior to Friday’s game against the Orioles in search of a fresh arm to help their beleaguered bullpen. Perez delivered a clutch performance by retiring the final nine batters of the game to pick up his first Major League win in Houston’s 4-3, 11-inning victory over Baltimore.
Perez, the club's No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, hadn’t pitched well at Triple-A Round Rock this year, posting a 6.44 ERA, but Astros relievers combined to throw 20 innings in the four-game series in Seattle, including six combining for 7 2/3 innings in Thursday’s 14-inning win. Perez was scheduled to start Thursday for Round Rock but was scratched and told to head to Houston.
“It was a night where we needed Cionel,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “It was his game, and he was going to continue to pitch. He’s had a rough season in Triple-A and strike-throwing has been an issue for him. He throws a ton of strikes and is really conservative with his pitch total -- no hits, huge innings. Just an incredible night for him.”
Perez threw 24 of his 40 pitches for strikes and hit 97 mph.
“I’ve been working on my movement and working on my delivery and my explosiveness and making sure that my arm would be on time, and fortunately today, it all came together from the work I have been doing in Round Rock and saw the results tonight,” Perez said.
Five of the relief pitchers who worked Thursday’s marathon game threw at least 24 pitches -- Chris Devenski (46), Josh James (35), Ryan Pressly (25), Roberto Osuna (25) and Hector Rondon (24). Behind seven innings from starter Gerrit Cole and three from Perez, Hinch stayed away from using all but Rondon.
“These guys can pitch and will want to pitch,” Hinch said. “It’s a definite challenge on a short term versus long term. Long term, these guys should get a few days off. Short term, we’re trying to win as many games as we can.”
On the mend
Hobbled former All-Stars Jose Altuve, George Springer and Aledmys Diaz could be sent on Minor League rehab assignments by the end of the homestand, Hinch said. Altuve has been out since May 10 with a strained left hamstring/right leg fatigue. Springer has been out since May 24 and Diaz has been out since May 26, both with strained left hamstrings.
“They all saw a doctor today and had some assessments done, which is a good thing, and they’re all in a really good place,” Hinch said. “We’re going to push them even harder this week before we determine when they’re going to go out [on a rehab assignment]. Hopefully, during this homestand and join us shortly after that.”
Catcher Max Stassi, on the injured list since May 26 with left knee soreness, continues to rehab at the team’s complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., along with pitcher Joe Smith. Stassi could be approaching a Minor League rehab assignment as well.
Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Collin McHugh (right elbow discomfort) threw a light bullpen session with all fastballs on Wednesday in Seattle and says he hopes to be on a rehab assignment by the end of the homestand as well.
“I feel great,” McHugh said. “I’m making progress. It’s been slow but steady, and we’ve got a good schedule right now of where we want to see ourselves over the next couple of weeks.”