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Bryan Abreu's Role Grows In Importance

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Righthander Bryan Abreu’s major league debut was an afterthought on a day the Astros made a transformative trade. Abreu pitched a clean inning in Houston’s 10-4 loss to the Indians on July 31.

Hours earlier, Abreu’s trajectory changed considerably. The Astros parted with righthanders Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas in a deal to acquire Zack Greinke, making their development of the 22-year-old Abreu more magnified than ever.

"He’ll be back (in the big leagues),” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We do see him as a guy who's going to be competing for a rotation spot, maybe even as soon as next year.”

Luhnow held on to both top prospect Forrest Whitley and surging Triple-A arm Brandon Bielak, both righthanders. Houston has other minor league starters with major league experience—be it righties Rogelio Armenteros and Jose Urquidy or lefty Framber Valdez—so the cupboard is not entirely bare.

But Abreu’s development now is crucial. He slots behind Whitley as the team’s best pitching prospect, despite having thrown just 55.2 innings above Class A. The 22-year-old Dominican was added to the 40-man roster last offseason to shield him from the Rule 5 draft. The Astros signed Abreu in November 2013.

Abreu has one of the organization’s best curveballs but often struggles to command much of anything else. He struck out 16 batters per nine innings last season at low Class A Quad Cities and had a rate of 11.8 per nine this year at high Class A Fayetteville and Double-A Corpus Christi.

Control is Abreu's biggest hindrance. This season he had walked nearly five batters per nine while recording a 4.86 ERA.

"It’s a matter of commanding it and getting ahead,” Luhnow said. "It’s the same with all these guys, especially the young Latin players sometimes. We see the potential there and we’re excited."

Abreu sits 93-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and can also throw a slider. He touched 96 in his major league debut, with adrenaline running through his veins and a more clear portrait of his importance to the Astros' present.

"He’ll have the rest of the year in Double-A and then we’ll see what happens at spring training next year,” Luhnow said.

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