Four-fifths of the way to a winless first trip through the rotation, the Astros hope they have themselves an unusual stopper lined up. Nelson Figueroa, a man who in a 15-year professional career had never broken spring training in the rotation, will be looked toward to stop the bleeding after the Astros lost 8-2 to the Cincinnati Reds to drop to 0-4.
Set for a matchup with Reds ace Edinson Volquez as Cincinnati skipped the No. 5 spot in its rotation while the Astros land on Figueroa's No. 5, the 36-year-old right-hander is ready for the challenge. And with the Astros' team ERA rising to 7.79 through four games, the Astros could really use it.
"Hopefully I can be a guy who can be a consistent competitor out there and keep winning streaks going and stop losing streaks," Figueroa said.
While going 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA down the stretch for the Astros last year, he often expressed his desire to see what he could do in a full season of work. While top prospect Jordan Lyles awaits at Triple-A, there is still that possibility should the veteran pile up quality outings like he did in 2010.
"I hope it's the beginning of a season-long streak of starts, get 30 starts under my belt and see what happens," Figueroa said.
With an extra two days between starts, Figueroa threw an additional bullpen session, always tinkering he said. His first official start of 2011 takes place at the site of one of his best last year, when he pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a road win against the Reds, really cementing his spot for the current season.
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