The Runner Sports

Finding Devo: Astros’ RHP Chris Devenski Waits His Turn In Dragon’s Lair

If the film The Natural had been about a pitcher, Robert Redford may have had to play Chris Devenski instead of Roy Hobbs.

The Houston Astros hope his success in 2015 isn’t his career peak, and very early returns strongly suggest it’s not.

Devenski won the Bobby Murcer Triple-A Championship MVP Award in September, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll take a look at how “Devo” brought down the light tower, so to speak, in his triumphant Natural moment a little later.

The Dragon Awaits

Fresh from the minor leagues, the 25-year-old is currently relegated to the Astros’ bullpen, pulling relief duties until he can do what he’s worked for years to do: Start.

The Astros’ 24th-ranked prospect (according to MLBPipeline.com) has pitched just over 10 innings so far this season (in 5 appearances through April 23), and 32% of his outs have come by strikeout, while he’s walked only one.

He struck out the side in an April 13 appearance against the Royals. He’s given up eight hits and one earned run.

His four-seam fastball averages 93.09, over half-a-mile-per-hour over the MLB average for that pitch of 92.56 (according to Statcast).

Manager A.J. Hinch has also told Chris that he’ll be doing long relief in those games where the starter gets knocked out early (there’s been a couple of those in this disappointing 6-12 season start for the ‘Stros, through games of April 23).

Game of Throw-Ins

The Astros received Devenski (and two other pitchers) from the Chicago White Sox as a player to be named later, in exchange for pitcher Brett Myers in August 2012. The Sox drafted Devenski in the 25th round in 2011 out of Cal State-Fullerton, 28 miles from his boyhood home of Long Beach, California.

Duty Now For the Future

Having spent all of 2015 with the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks affiliate, the right-handed starting pitcher Devenski was finally promoted to AAA Fresno, but only after appearing in the Hooks’ playoff series.

See highlights of the 1st round Pacific Conference Championship Series vs. El Paso where Fresno advanced to the PCL Championship Series vs. Round Rock (TX). 

A handful of innings in that series against the Texas Rangers’ AAA Round Rock affiliate (where he struck out 3 in four innings, allowed two hits, and reached 96 mph on his fastball), led to this crowning achievement:

The AAA Championship is one game, and on September 22 in El Paso (TX), the Pacific Coast League Champion Fresno Grizzlies met the International League Champion Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians) for all the marbles.

Starting for Fresno was Devenski. He was gifted with a 3-run lead before he climbed the mound in the bottom of the first. Fresno scored more runs, while “The Dragon” calmly blew the Clippers away, and was perfect through 5 innings.

He retired the first 18 hitters he faced, and mowed down the side in the 7th, and ended up leading the Grizzlies to the AAA Championship, 7-0, as well as earning that aforementioned Triple-A Championship MVP Award for his heroic effort. Cue exploding bank of lights.

In the game, Devenski struck out 9 in his seven innings, giving up just one hit, with no walks.

Watch highlights of the Championship Game with MVP Trophy presentation to Devenski 

Because One’s Not Enough

“We call him The Dragon,” Astros’ #14-ranked Prospect (according to MLBPipeline.com) Tony Kemp (2B/OF) recently told MiLB.com of Devenski. “We call him that nickname because every time he goes out there, he’s fearless and believes in himself. And when you have a pitcher like that, that has a beast in him like that, all you have to do is just play easy defense.”

Devenski has been recently quoted as saying, “I’m trying to get it (‘The Dragon’) to stick.”

Not to be outdone, his friends know him as “Devo.”

The AA Year That Led to the AAA Championship Game

Devenski started 17 of 24 games in 2015 for Corpus Christi, accumulating 119.2 innings, in pitching to a 7-4 record. With an ERA of 3.01, he gave up less than a hit an inning (117; only 12-about 10%-left the park) and ended with a batting-average-against of .253.

His K/BB ratio was over 3/1 (104 Ks vs. 33 walks), and his Double-A WHIP was 1.25.

Clearly, his control will dictate his MLB success. In an interview last summer, Devenski described his pitching agenda during a game:

“I throw a fastball, changeup, and curveball. I’m comfortable throwing any of my pitches in a 3-2 count, but I would say that my go-to would be to throw a fastball. However, I like to keep hitters off-balance so I would occasionally throw an off-speed pitch in an obvious fastball situation. I’m confident of throwing any of my pitches in any count.”

“And Now, Warming Up in the Dragon’s Lair…”

For now, the Dragon’s Lair is nothing but a bullpen for various relief gigs. But, this hard-working youngster has the hope and the talent to eventually emerge from beyond the outfield fence as a starter, way sooner than later.

He’s a natural.

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!

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Brad Kyle