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Brett Conine Jumps On Big League Radar



The Astros’ stockpile of starting pitchers carried them through 2020.

Cristian Javier took Justin Verlander’s place in the rotation and never left it. Framber Valdez emerged as a force. Jose Urquidy, Brandon Bielak and Luis Garcia provided glimpses of promise when called upon, too.

Another option worked out at the alternate training site—even if he was once a standout college closer.

Righthander Brett Conine leads the next wave of upper-level starting pitching depth primed for major league action. The 2018 11th-rounder from Cal State Fullerton will be in big league spring training camp, hoping to take the final step to starting a big league game.

"He has a great routine and I think that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s been successful and seen his velo bump up during the season,” Astros assistant general manager Pete Putila said.

The 24-year-old Conine's control is among the best in the organization. He’s walked just 40 batters in 146 innings of affiliated ball, showing a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a plus changeup. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound righty made immense strides with his curveball, Putila said, and will continue to develop more bite on his slider in big league camp.

More important, though, may be Conine’s ability to harness his velocity over longer stints. Conine sits 92-94 mph with his fastball, but Putila said he’s been clocked as high as 96 or 97 during his pro career.

“He really got revved up in 2019 and his velo steadily increased throughout the year," Putila said. "There was a period between July through the end of the season where he was 92-96. He’s at those velos throwing strikes with the mix he has.”

Conine ascended three levels during the 2019 season, finishing at Double-A. He struck out 134 in 114.1 innings and walked just 2.3 per nine. His 2020 season included a brief stop at Minute Maid Park for live batting practice sessions against major league hitters during summer camp.

The 2021 season could contain a longer stop at the ballpark.

SPACE SHOTS

— Look for Jake Meyers to enter the center field competition during spring training. Meyers, a 13th-round pick in 2017, had a breakout camp in 2020 prior to the pandemic. His defense is lauded throughout the organization.

Jake Meyers Johnwilliamson

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