Astros' Tropeano Unleashes Extra Heat

HOUSTON—You could call Nick Tropeano a number of different things over a wild and mostly successful ride through the first five starts of the season. What you can no longer call the Astros prospect is just a finesse righthander.

Living off a fastball that's picked up more than a tick from his short-season debut of 2011, Tropeano had one of the best season-opening stretches in all of the minor leagues.

Through three starts of five innings, six innings and the rarely-seen-in-Class-A-ball eight innings, he sported an ERA of 0.47, 27 strikeouts and a South Atlantic League pitcher of the week honor.

Then came a reminder that he's still in low Class A. He was pulled from his fourth start after two innings because one frame featured nearly 30 pitches, and he followed that with 52⁄3 innings and four runs allowed in his next one. He finished April with a 1-2, 2.36 mark.

Having success is nothing new for the 6-foot-4, 21-year-old Tropeano, who was a fifth-round pick last year out of Stony Brook. He compiled an identical 2.36 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 12 starts for short-season Tri-City last year.

It's just how he's getting them, going from flashing 89-92 mph fastballs to living more consistently at the upper edge of that spectrum. He boasts an excellent changeup and a breaking ball to go with the improved heater.

"It was just hard work over the offseason to get into a good workout regimen," said Tropeano, adding that he's made no major overhauls of his mechanics.

Except for the one quickly aborted outing, he's kept his pitch counts within reason, something that's a little harder to do when he's striking out 11.1 batters-per-nine innings after a robust 10.6 last year.

"I'm getting ahead in counts," Tropeano said, "trying to get two strikes in the first three pitches."

It's paid off in a very reasonable walk rate of 2.7 per nine innings, but ask him and ask around the Astros organization, and there's much more to his game than just finesse.

Space Shots

• Double-A Corpus Christi first baseman Jonathan Singleton busted out of his power drought with a two-home run game as part of a 4-for-4 day on April 24. Singleton, 20, was batting .322/.416/.552.

• Double-A righty Jarred Cosart was forced to go 17 days between starts because of a persistent blister. He returned on April 22 with five scoreless innings and no walks before walking six in his next start five days later. Overall, he was 1-2, 2.84 with 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 innings.