After another brutal game where the starting pitcher couldn't get out of the first inning, the Houston Astros moved to shore up a weakened bullpen by sending left-hander Dallas Keuchel to Triple-A and calling up Brett Oberholtzer to take his spot.
Keuchel made his second appearance of the week on Saturday, throwing 2 2/3 innings after starter Phillip Humber gave up eight runs in 1/3 of an inning. Keuchel didn't fare much better, allowing seven runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. Houston used five different relievers, including recently un-DLed Travis Blackley and the other long relief man Paul Clemens, who closed out the game with three shutout innings.
Oberholtzer, 23, will be making his major league debut after being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Michael Bourn deal in 2011. The left-hander started three games for Oklahoma City this season and has a 9.49 ERA in 12 1/3 innings of work. His FIP in the minors this season is 6.61 and he's struck out six while walking four.
While this may seem like a slap at Keuchel, the left-hander has been pretty good in his second season in the majors. Keuchel's ERA looks better than it did last season, but his FIP is still very high (5.74). He's striking out more batters at a 5.06 K/9 clip and has walked fewer batters than he did last season in the majors. He's also getting ground balls at a rate of about 57 percent, which is very encouraging.
No, what this move feels like is the times Houston sent Jordan Lyles to the minors to get rested bullpen arms up. The Astros likely don't see this pitching staff as just a 12-man unit and will likely make generous use of rested arms in Triple-A to supplement the team. As such, there may be plenty of movement with guys getting shuffled back and forth, especially if the starters don't get it together and pitch more than half an inning.
What do you think? Are you expecting anything out of Oberholtzer? Are you disappointed that Keuchel drew the short straw? Does this all smack of desperation so early in April?