Urckfitz May Be A Fit With Astros





Kissimmee, Fla. When you're looking for the unlikely success story in a spring training clubhouse 63 men strong, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound, perfectly built lefthander isn't generally the best place to start the search.

It just might be in the Astros clubhouse.

The object of the search would be Patrick Urckfitz, who looks the part of a big leaguer but was undrafted out of Monroe (N.Y.) CC.

His path began with Monroe at the 2008 Junior College World Series, but it began with inaction. He was scouted by Mike Maggert, but the 2008 draft went by and he was never called. A month later, he was pitching in the New York Collegiate Baseball League when he got the call.

He tiptoed through the Astros system as a reliever and impressed in 2010 by surviving the brutal pitching environment at high Class A Lancaster. Combine that with the attrition around him, and there was the chance to become a starter after making 87 appearances in relief over three seasons.

"It was an adjustment that took a little while to get used to," Urckfitz said. "I was just trying to continue what I was doing in the bullpen: same attitude and same approach. The main goal was to get a third pitch that I could throw consistently to righthanders."

That pitch ended up being a split-finger fastball, which he used to supplement what is pretty good heat for a lefty. Urckfitz went 5-9, 4.13 with 103 strikeouts and 32 walks in 35 appearances (including 12 starts) spread over 105 innings for Lancaster. At the end of it, he was presented with an invitation to the Arizona Fall League.

"It was awesome, great experience," said Urckfitz, who made nine relief appearances in Arizona with a 3.86 ERA.

SPACE SHOTS

• First baseman Koby Clemens, a non-roster invite to major league spring training, was one of the first arrivals in Kissimmee, more than two weeks before position players were due.

• General manager Ed Wade was clear in his message to players like Jiovanni Mier, Jorge De Leon and Jimmy Paredes, who have never played above Class A but are at major league spring training. "A lot of the younger players who we're bringing in are coming in knowing they're not going to make the club," Wade said. "We just ask them to get used to the surroundings, put their foot in the water a little bit and let the staff get familiar with them."