The Runner Sports

Astros Give New Life To Starter Francisco Liriano: Reliable Lefty Reliever

Monday’s acquisition of Toronto Blue Jays starter, Francisco Liriano, 33, by the Houston Astros, has implications that only point to the glaring bullpen weakness for the American League Western Division leaders: The lack of a reliable lefty reliever.

Finally growing weary of an increasingly ineffective Tony Sipp and his near-habitual 5 earned runs per 1/3 an inning performances, Houston is proving that one man’s failings may end up being another man’s career-altering opportunity.

The left-handed Sipp, 34, who indeed gave up 3 hits (including a homer), 2 walks, and 5 ER in 1/3 inning, in Houston’s 13-1 Sunday loss to Detroit, now has a 6.39 ERA and none of manager A.J. Hinch’s confidence.

Related: Tony Sipp Steps in It: The Mess in the Astros’ Bullpen

In return, the Astros sent OF Nori Aoki to Toronto, along with #9-ranked Houston prospect, OF Teoscar Hernandez. Teo homered, last year, in his MLB debut in Toronto…..off Liriano! He was batting .279 in 301 ABs, this season, for Triple-A Fresno in the Pacific Coast League. He had 20 doubles, 3 triples, and 12 homers, and an .854 OPS for the Grizzlies.

Related: ‘Stro Wars: A New Hope: Teo Hernandez Avoids Oblivion

The move of Aoki, 35, to Toronto, now allows OF prospect, the 23-year-old Derek Fisher, to remain in the Astros’ outfield, without having to move back down to AAA Fresno. Through Sunday, Fisher has proven worthy of Hinch’s confidence, by hitting .278, with 2 homers, 6 RBIs, and a healthy .866 OPS.

Including Aoki (and acquiring the equally “expensive” Liriano), helps offset salary, according to the Houston Chronicle‘s Jake Kaplan. Aoki is owed the rest of his $5.5 million salary for this year, and Liriano the rest of his $13.67 million.

Related: Fisher Starts in AAA All-Star Game

Left-handed batters have managed a .615 OPS off Liriano this season, while the Dominican native has thrown 82.2 IP in 18 games (all starts) in 2017. His 5.88 ERA can now be more or less disregarded, as his role, moving forward, will be radically different, coming out of Houston’s bullpen. Bonus: Liriano can be used for spot starts when needed.

NEW: Beyond Liriano Trade, Astros’ Roster Buzzing with Activity

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle