With the Chukchansi Park clubhouse televisions tuned into the Houston Astros game, several Fresno Grizzlies players watched on as former teammate Chris Devenski took the mound against the Oakland A’s for his first major league start.
Most followed casually.
A few closely monitored the Astros’ overall outing, as they typically do when it comes to the parent club’s games.
Some watched just because their former teammate was on TV.
They all make sure, though, to at least keep up with how the Astros are performing overall.
“Any time the game is on, the whole team is watching see how the guys are doing,” Grizzlies outfielder Tony Kemp said. “We’re always rooting for them.”
With Houston tied with the American League’s worst record at 7-17 after the first month of the season, it could be a matter of time before the Astros turn to their farm system, the Triple-A Grizzlies in particular, for help.
Some Grizzlies players might already be privately projecting what areas the Astros need help the most and which player could be called up next.
Whoever’s the hot man is probably going to get the opportunity. ... They’re looking for guys that can give them a chance to win.
Fresno Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco
“They’re going to take whomever they need at the time when they feel they need it,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “Right now, whoever’s the hot man is probably going to get the opportunity. Doesn’t matter if it’s an outfielder, infielder, starter, reliever.
“They’re looking for guys that can give them a chance to win. This is a big year for us up there. They’re not going to have a lot of patience when they lose.”
The Astros, who are in last place in the AL West Division and six games back of the first place Texas Rangers, could use help just about everywhere except maybe middle infield.
Entering Sunday, the Astros sported the fifth worst ERA in the majors at 4.97.
Starters had a 5.10 ERA. Relievers had a 4.75 ERA. And combined, Houston was allowing the second highest batting average at .284.
7-17 Parent club Houston Astros record in April, which was tied for the worst mark in the American League
Who from the Grizzlies might be most ready to help the Astros?
Fresno closer James Hoyt would seem to be next in line if Houston needs a short reliever. Hoyt has a 2.19 ERA with six saves and 20 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. Hoyt, however, is currently not on the Astros’ 40-man roster, which would require Houston to make an additional player move if the club ever decided to promote Hoyt.
“With Hoyt, it’s not a matter of if but when,” Grizzlies pitching coach Dyar Miller said.
Monday’s scheduled starter RH Brad Peacock has been arguably the Grizzlies most consistent starting pitcher. But he’s coming off back and hip surgeries over the past two offseasons and missed the majority of last year.
Peacock, who has thrown 232 innings in the majors, is 0-0 with a 3.66 ERA and had 25 strikeouts to 11 walks in 19.2 innings to begin this season.
“Big thing for me right now, I’m feeling good,” Peacock said. “That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now, feeling good after every start. And I am. Haven’t felt this good in four or five years.
“They’ll be fine up there (in Houston). They’ve got some studs. It’s early.”
Offensively, the Astros certainly could use run and RBI production, which correlates to their .229 team average that ranks 26th in the majors, and their .200 average with runners in scoring position, which is the second worst mark in baseball.
Second baseman Jose Altuve is the only player batting above .268. And everyone but Altuve, outfielder Colby Rasmus and shorstop Carlos Correa has an OBP below .328 (an above average OBP is considered .340 with .320 considered average, according to fangraphs.com).
That’s just like if you just got to a new job, and you’re already looking for something else new.
Fresno Grizzlies leadoff hitter Tony Kemp
The Astros have especially struggled to hit right-handed pitching, batting just .224 with 197 strikeouts to 69 walks in 653 at-bats.
Many of the Grizzlies’ bigger names and bats, meanwhile, have gotten off to slow starts, though they have heated up some lately.
First baseman prospect A.J. Reed, a left-handed hitter, is batting .260 with five homers and a team-high 18 RBIs and sports a .363 OBP in his first Triple-A season. Reed currently has an eight-game hit streak.
Fellow first baseman Jon Singleton, also a lefty slugger, is hitting .247 with five homers and 11 RBIs with a .333 OBP.
The Grizzlies’ four hottest bats, meanwhile, have been outfielder Eury Perez (.349 average-349 OBP-.907 on-base-plus slugging percentage), middle infielder Danny Worth (.346-.418-.969), outfielder/second basemen Kemp (.304-.422-.784) and third baseman Colin Moran (.303-.357-.752).
None of the four are on the Astros’ 40-man roster, though Moran was considered Houston’s No. 8 prospect by Baseball America entering the season.
“It’s early in the season,” Kemp said. “You can’t look too far down the future.
“A lot of us are excited about where we are now. Thats just like if you just got to a new job, and you’re already looking for something else new. Got to stay focused where you’re at.”