Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/9/12
HOUSTON Aneury Rodriguez knew in advance that this stay in Houston would be brief, something akin to what Jordan Lyles faced when he was recalled to make a spot start in Cincinnati on April 29. The onus sat squarely on Rodriguez to leave a lasting impression in the mind of Astros manager Brad Mills, to pitch so effectively that Astros brass might view Rodriguez as the solution to their lingering issues at the back end of their rotation. Like Lyles before him, Rodriguez gave that brain trust another option to seriously consider. Rodriguez surrendered two runs on two hits over six solid innings, holding the line just long enough for the Astros to mount a late rally in their 3-2 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. That he was optioned back to Triple-A Oklahoma City after his 78-pitch stopgap performance came as no surprise. Suffice it to say, when the Astros need a fifth starter on May 19, Rodriguez will be on their short list. "It's got to be a great impression because you look at how things have gone for him, and that's a pretty good lineup over there, a team that's won seven straight," Mills said. "You know what? He did a real good job. "This is definitely a great note for him to go back down there with confidence to say, Hey, I'm good enough to be there and I can do this.' Hopefully he takes that in the right stride, and I'm sure he will." Rodriguez has been a mixed bag since the Astros (14-16) selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Rays in 2010. He finished 0-4 with a 5.80 ERA as a starter last season yet showed some promise as a reliever. In six starts with the RedHawks this season, Rodriguez is 1-3 with a 4.97 ERA and a staff-high 37 strikeouts. He has the arm to succeed in the big leagues but not necessarily the experience to harness his potential. He didn't pass his audition last season, but Tuesday night offered new hope. The Marlins (15-15) smacked two solo homers off Rodriguez, but otherwise he was efficient. He has worked extensively on improving his changeup, and he pitched down in the strike zone. Considering how feeble the Astros looked against Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez, the fact that Rodriguez exited facing only a two-run deficit was a plus. Those six strikeouts he recorded will make the trip north easier to take. "You know it's good because if you pitch here good, in the big leagues, Oklahoma (City) is Triple-A," Rodriguez said. "I pitched good." With Kyle Weiland (0-3, 6.62 ERA in three starts) only a week removed from a surgical procedure that cleared out an infection in his pitching (right) shoulder, the Astros will keep Rodriguez and Lyles, who allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in six innings with five strikeouts at Cincinnati, on deck. Chances are they'll be needed again. "Anytime you go through a major-league season, it's an extreme rarity to go through with just five (starting) pitchers," Mills said. "And these guys knew that - the five starters. So they go down and put themselves in a position to come up and they did. They made a great impression. "And now we ask them to go down there and continue to get better and keep progressing because with the way things are happening, there's probably a good chance that we'll see one of them here pretty quick." By optioning Rodriguez back to Oklahoma City, the Astros cleared a roster spot to recall right-hander Rhiner Cruz, 25, from his rehab assignment. In seven appearances before succumbing to an ankle injury, Cruz allowed two earned runs on six hits and four walks over 8.2 innings with eight strikeouts. He offered just a flash of the vast potential that intrigued Astros first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow, who plucked Cruz from the Mets during the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8, 2011. Adding the fire-balling Cruz to a bullpen that ranked fourth in the National League in ERA (2.90) coming into Tuesday should only strengthen that unit. Against the Marlins, Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez (3-0) and Brett Myers combined to work three scoreless in support of Rodriguez, with Myers notching his eighth save in eight opportunities. The bullpen stands in stark contrast to the uncertainty of the rotation. Additional reinforcements will enhance anticipation of what could be. "He's unique," Lyon, who pitched in his third consecutive game and has a 1.00 ERA over his last nine appearances, said of Cruz. "Obviously it's good to have a guy like that. He stepped right in during spring training and started to show the progression of how good he could be. He's capable of striking people out and he's able to pitch in any situation. He's just going to add depth to our bullpen and make us better." Follow me on Twitter at moiskapenda
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