Astros' Bryan Abreu emerges as late-inning option

Bryan Abreu continues to gain the trust of the Astros in high-leverage situations

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- Dusty Baker needed someone to record the final out of Tuesday’s game.

Hector Neris took the mound in the ninth inning with a 4-0 lead, but allowed a pair of runs and the Twins had the tying run on base. Baker’s options were limited as Ryan Pressly and Rafael Montero were unavailable, while Ryne Stanek had already been used, so he turned to Bryan Abreu.

Abreu walked Gio Urshela on five pitches to load the bases but recovered to dispatch Jake Cave on three sliders to end the game. After struggling to maintain a spot in the Astros bullpen over the last two seasons, Abreu has blossomed in 2022 and Baker credits his control and demeanor on the mound for that growth.

“He always had the stuff,” the Astros manager said Wednesday. “You would hope a guy grows or else he's being stagnant, and if you stagnate too much somebody's there to take your job.”

After compiling a 5.75 ERA with an 11.2 percent walk rate, Abreu spent almost the entirety of the second half of last season in Triple-A. His ERA has dropped to 2.57 in 2022 with a 10.3 percent walk rate after Tuesday’s outing, and Abreu’s strikeout rate has jumped from 22.4 percent to 35.1 percent.

His velocity is up to 97.4 MPH this season after he was sitting at 95.7 MPH a season ago, and his slider has become devastating with opponents whiffing at it 47.8 percent of the time, and opponents are slugging just .196 when they put that pitch in play, down from .442 last season.

Tuesday was the second time Baker turned to Abreu in a ninth inning save situation. Both instances came with the Astros bullpen severely shorthanded, so while Baker says he’s pleased with the 25-year old’s progress, he’s not ready to call him a finished product.

“It proves that he's on the way,” Baker said. "I'm not a snap judgment kind of guy, if not, you go from one guy to the next on each performance. You just got to build on it.”

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