After rocky '23, Coleman ready for fresh start

February 16th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez took the mightiest of swings and couldn’t catch up a 100.7 mph fastball thrown by . The then-Royals reliever blew away Alvarez on three pitches during his solid rookie season of 2022 and still remembers it to this day.

“Absolutely,” Coleman said with a smile.

In the next few days, Alvarez will report to Spring Training and share a clubhouse with the man who made the slugger look pedestrian, at least for one at-bat. The Astros traded for Coleman during last year’s Winter Meetings with hope that he can overpower more hitters in the coming months.

“I was talking with my dad, and as soon as I got traded I was trying to think about my outings against the Astros, and I feel like I did well all the times I faced them,” said Coleman, who didn’t allow a run in three career games against Houston.

A 6-foot-5 right-hander, Coleman’s sometimes overpowering stuff -- just ask Alvarez -- is what made him so enticing. He appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons, including 68 games in 2022 when he posted a 2.78 ERA. Last season, he walked 19 batters in 18 1/3 big league innings and spent most of the season in Triple-A while looking to regain his control.

When asked what he liked about Coleman, Astros manager Joe Espada said: “The stuff.”

Coleman has a fresh start and a great opportunity in Houston, where the Astros could have as many as four bullpen spots up for grabs this spring. Much has been made about Houston’s terrifying back end -- Josh Hader, Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu -- and Rafael Montero is back as well, but those are the only relievers with guaranteed spots.

“I think it’s not good to look too much into that,” Coleman said. “I feel like if I’m where I want to be, all that will take care of itself. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my stuff and my ability. It’s just focusing on what I can control and taking it day by day and knowing at the end of the day I’m in a good spot.”

Coleman said the trade was “kind of expected,” but he immediately became excited about the chance to pitch for the Astros, who have made it a habit of plucking pitchers off other rosters and taking their careers to another level. Just ask Collin McHugh, Will Harris or even Gerrit Cole.

“Obviously, the winning culture is here, as well, but more so the development [intrigues] me,” Coleman said. “Having those people you can rely on, especially when you get off, it’s always something. You have guys here that can really lock in on that and get you back on track quicker. It’s a lot of help.”

Coleman’s walk rate ballooned last year, which resulted in him spending much of the season at Triple-A Omaha. His control problem persisted at Triple-A, where he walked 32 batters in 30 2/3 innings. He added a cutter last year, but the pitch remains a work in progress. Coleman also throws a slider and his hard fastball, which could be a huge weapon out of the bullpen if he throws it for strikes.

“I think it was just mechanical last year and it kind of got a little mental,” he said. “I would have weeks where I would be just up and down all year. It goes back to finding those things to fix quicker when you’re off, so they don’t linger [for] weeks or whatever that may be. It was a tough year, but there’s still positives that come out of that. I grew a lot on the mental game.”

Perhaps the biggest positive is the Royals decided to trade him to the Astros, who appear poised for another World Series run this year. Houston has been to seven consecutive ALCS and has won the AL West in six consecutive full seasons. Coleman wants to be a part of that.

“I love it,” he said. “Just being around that winning culture is really big to me. Confidence is so much higher and the vibes are better. I was really excited about it. That’s the first thing they told me when I got traded is we win a lot. I knew that.”