HomeTeamsAstrosIntroducing The Rest Of The Astros’ Bullpen

Introducing The Rest Of The Astros’ Bullpen

The Astros’ bullpen came into 2024 knowing they had one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the game with Bryan Abreu, Ryan Pressly, and new free-agent signing Josh Hader. While all three started off the season poorly, they have all bounced back as of late, putting up numbers in the past couple of weeks that are stellar. But three players does not a bullpen make. While Abreu, Pressly, and Hader will get a lot of attention from fans and the media alike, the Astros’ bullpen consists of four other players who act as the team’s long relievers and middle relievers. The Astros also needed to sign some new players to their bullpen, as the team let three relievers walk in free agency this past offseason: Phil Maton signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, Hector Neris signed with the Chicago Cubs, and Ryne Stanek signed with the Seattle Mariners. Also, injuries to right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman (out for the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery) and left-handed pitcher Bennett Sousa (also out for the entire season after “undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome”) have opened the door for some new players to compete in these injured pitchers’ stead.


Rafael Montero is a familiar face to Astros fans. The Astros acquired Montero in a 2021 trade with their division rivals, the Seattle Mariners. The trade also sent Kendall Graveman to Houston, as Seattle received infielder Abraham Toro and reliever Joe Smith in return. At the time of the trade, Montero was in his seventh big-league season. Having been signed as an international free agent by the New York Mets out of the Dominican Republic, Montero initially broke into the big leagues as a starter in 2014. In four years with the Mets, he started 30 games out of 58 total appearances, going 6-16 with a 5.38 ERA, 189 strikeouts, and 111 walks in 192.1 innings. Montero missed the entire 2018 season with Tommy John surgery and was signed by the Texas Rangers as a minor-league free agent at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Montero spent two years in Texas, appearing in 39 games out of the bullpen and going 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA, 53 strikeouts, and 11 walks. Montero was traded to Seattle at the conclusion of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.

With Houston, Montero had his best season in 2022 going 5-2 in 71 games with a great 2.37 ERA, 73 strikeouts, 23 walks in 68.1 innings. Montero was a key contributor in the Astros’ road to a World Series championship that year, as he pitched in 10 games, posting a minuscule 1.93 ERA, striking out 10 batters, walking six, and allowing five hits. Most notably, he pitched the eighth inning of Game 4 of the World Series, the Astros’ combined no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. Montero was rewarded for his superb 2022 season with a new contract. He signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal that offseason when the Astros were in the middle of finding a new GM and owner Jim Crane and Astros’ Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell made some offseason decisions on their own.

Montero struggled early and often last season, posting a 5.08 ERA in 67.1 innings (68 total appearances) with 79 strikeouts and 29 walks. He let up 27 more hits and 18 more runs than he did in 2022. This season, however, Montero has been pitching well; he has a 3.20 ERA in 19.2 innings (20 appearances) with 12 strikeouts and 5 walks. He has six holds on the year. In his first 12 games, he only allowed runs in two appearances. In his last five games, he’s only allowed one run. Montero has four pitches, but primarily relies on only three: his four-seam, changeup, and sinker. He’s all but abandoned his slider after throwing it almost as consistently as his sinker the year before.


Seth Martinez is a familiar face to Astros fans as well. Martinez was drafted out of Arizona State by the Oakland Athletics with the 502nd pick in the 17th round in 2016. After working his way up through the A’s minor league system, the Astros selected him in the Rule 5 draft in 2020. Martinez made his major league debut in 2021 for the Astros, pitching a scoreless inning against the Los Angeles Angels in September. He only pitched in three games that year as a September call-up. Martinez shuttled between the AAA Sugar Land Space Cowboys and the big league club in 2022. During his various stints at the major-league level, Martinez pitched really well, going 1-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 38.2 innings (29 games), striking out 38 batters and walking 14.

Now, in 2023, Martinez is firmly entrenched in the Astros’ bullpen as a middle reliever. In 24 innings (19 games) he’s gone 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts and nine walks. His WHIP is a little high at 1.125, but he’s been worth 0.6 WAR on the season already, seventh-best on the team (and the highest-rated reliever on the list). He has six multi-inning appearances this season already, most notably pitching 3.2 scoreless innings in relief in a 10-5 win over the Texas Rangers in Arlington. During his first six appearances, he didn’t allow a single run. He’s only runs in three of his nineteen appearances so far this season.

Martinez has four pitches in his arsenal: a sweeper, four-seamer, sinker, and changeup. He uses all four pretty consistently. His sweeper is his most utilized pitch; batters are hitting .318 against it, collecting seven hits (including three home runs) in 23 plate appearances. Batters are only hitting .130 against his fastball, primarily because he’s been able to locate it at the edges of the strike zone consistently. He doesn’t really have a strikeout pitch as he’s collected four strikeouts on his sweeper, four-seamer, and sinker. And an interesting note: he primarily uses his changeup against lefties, having thrown 50 changeups to lefties and only six to righties.


Tayler Scott signed with the Astros to a minor league deal this past offseason. The 31-year-old from Johannesburg, South Africa was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ever since getting drafted, he took a long, circuitous route to playing for the Astros. Scott spent five years in the Cubs’ minor league system before being released by the team at the end of spring training during the 2016 season. He signed to a minor-league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, then got traded to the Texas Rangers in 2017, all the while still playing in the minor leagues. After spending 2018 in AAA with the Rangers, Scott became a free agent, and signed with the Seattle Mariners that offseason. In 2019, he finally made his major-league debut for the Mariners. Though, it was short lived as he got placed on waivers that year and got picked up by the Baltimore Orioles, where he saw limited time in the majors as well.

Then, the pandemic happened in 2020. Scott decided to pitch in Japan for two season for the Hiroshima Carp, where he pitched to a 1.96 ERA in 2021 in limited time there. He pitched in eight major-league games for the San Diego Padres in 2022, then shuttled between the majors and minors for three major-league teams in 2023: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, and the Oakland Athletics, appearing in 18 games and posting a 5.60 ERA.

None of this could have predicted what happened next for Tayler Scott and the Astros. He had a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings (10 appearances) in spring training this year, recording ten strikeouts and four walks. He made the major-league roster out of spring training and has pitched really well this year. He has sported a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings (19 games) for the Astros with 25 strikeouts, 11 walks, and 0.4 WAR. (In comparison, his career ERA to this point is 6.95.)

He has four pitches, and primarily throws three of them: a four-seamer, a slider, and a changeup. Opposing hitters have only hit a minuscule .071 off of his four-seamer, as Scott has recorded eight strikeouts on the pitch. His four-seamer averages 92.5 mph, but since he’s peppered the top of the strike zone with the pitch, opponents have done limited damage on it. He’s also recorded eight strikeouts with his slider, which has 12.9 inches of break, or 6.2 inches better than the average slider. Much like Seth Martinez, Scott primarily throws his changeup to left-handed hitting batters. Opposing hitters have only managed three singles off of this pitch in 21 at-bats. In total, he’s only allowed one extra-base hit this entire season, a home run to Washington Nationals’ designated hitter Nick Senzel on April 21 in a 6-0 loss.


Shawn Dubin was drafted by the Astros in 2018 out of Georgetown College in the 13th round. In just three years (minus the pandemic season when there was no minor league baseball), Dubin earned a spot on the AAA Sugar Land Space Cowboys, going 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 49.2 innings with 69 strikeouts and 19 walks. He split time as a starter and reliever during his three seasons in AAA. He made his first appearance in the big leagues in 2023, allowing seven hits and five runs while striking out four batters in three innings of an 11-1 loss to the New York Mets. He only pitched two more times for the big league club in 2023, allowing two runs in six innings of work while striking out seven batters and walking two.

This season, Dubin started the season on the injured list (IL) with a right forearm strain. He underwent a rehab assignment in early April and rejoined the Astros’ bullpen in mid-April after being activated off the IL. Since then, Dubin has struggled some, pitching to a 6.59 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. This is primarily due to three bad outings, where he let up a combined nine runs. He’s shown flashes of good pitching, like in last night’s 8-1 home win against the Oakland Athletics, where he pitched three innings of one-run ball, and striking out two batters, recording the rare three-inning save in the process. After that game, he lowered his season ERA a full run from 7.59 to 6.59.

Dubin has five pitches: a four-seamer, cutter, changeup, curveball, and sweeper. He throws his four-seamer about 41% of the time. He throws the other four pitches in between 13 and 18% of the time. Opponents are hitting .278 off the four-seamer, recording five hits in 18 at-bats. However, Dubin has also struck out six batters on the pitch, showing he can be effective with good location. Opposing batters appear to have found out his cutter though, as he’s let up four hits in ten at-bats without recording a strikeout on the pitch. Like Martinez and Scott, Dubin primarily throws his changeup to left handed-hitters; this has been his best pitch of the season so far, as opponents have recorded only two hits in 11 at-bats.


Just a brief note on Brandon Bielak, who was designated for assignment by the Astros last Saturday and then traded to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday for cash considerations. Bielak was an 11th round pick of the Astros in 2017 out of the University of Notre Dame. He got called up to the big leagues for the first time in 2020, going 3-3 with 6.75 ERA, 26 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 32 innings pitched. The next three years, Bielak bounced between Sugar Land and the Astros, mainly appearing as a starter. In 2023, he started 13 games for the Astros, pitching 80 innings, while compiling a 3.83 ERA, 62 strikeouts, and 36 walks. This year, however, he was used primarily as a long reliever, sporting a 5.71 ERA in 17.1 innings (10 games) with nine strikeouts, seven walks, and 11 runs allowed. He pitched multiple innings six times this season for the Astros, and one of his best games occurred during a 5-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners on May 4th, in which he threw three innings of one-hit ball, allowing one walk and striking out one batter. Bielak joined the A’s active roster today, so we’ll see how Oakland uses him—either as a starter or out of the bullpen.


Also, here’ s a brief word on new reliever Parker Mushinski, who just rejoined the team on Friday night. As of 11 a.m. this Friday, The Athletic Astros’ beat writer Chandler Rome reported that Parker Mushinski was getting called up to join the major-league team before that night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Astros sent down Shawn Dubin to AAA Sugar Land. Mushinski was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft by the Astros out of Texas Tech University. Over the last three years, he has appeared in 24 games for the Astros out of the bullpen, compiling a 5.88 career ERA with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks. This season, he has only appeared in three games for the major league club (four innings), allowing six hits and seven runs with two strikeouts and three walks.

While the Astros started off the season dealing with some injuries to their bullpen, other relievers have stepped up and done their job to keep the team in games. They’ve also saved some of the Astros’ high leverage arms from pitching multiple days in a row or in blowouts. All these pitchers will throw important innings at some point during the season. That being said, every inning these pitchers throw will be important. The biggest thing is for the Astros to get through a season with their bullpen fully healthy. If everyone stays healthy, then that’s a big step toward reclaiming this “lost” season so far.


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