Astros reliever Fernando Abad, who continues to struggle in his role as a left-handed specialist, was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City following Houston’s heartbreaking 3-1 loss in the 11th inning against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday afternoon at Turner Field.
The 25-year-old Abad shined during his rookie campaign for Houston last season, posting a 2.84 ERA with 12 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP over 19 innings in 22 relief appearances after making his major league debut on July 28 versus the Chicago Cubs.
Although the Astros had high expectations for Abad entering the 2011 regular season, the young southpaw has struggled to maintain consistency in his particular role, going 1-4 with a 7.43 ERA, eight walks and nine strikeouts over 13 1/3 innings in 22 games.
Abad allowed an earned run on a hit with two walks and a strikeout over one-third of an inning to earn his fourth loss of the season in Atlanta’s 3-2 victory over the Astros on Monday night.
Furthermore, he had another recent meltdown May 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park by surrendering the game-losing, three-run homer to Ryan Doumit in the bottom of the eighth.
Manager Brad Mills informed the media following the team’s final exhibiition game on March 30 against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park that Abad had made the Opening Day roster, despite struggling in Spring Training and being called in for a “get your butt in gear” speech leading up to final roster cuts.
Abad, a strike thrower at the minor league level, will attempt to work through his ongoing struggles under the guidance of University of Texas icon and former Astros pitching coach Burt Hooten, who’s serving in the same capacity at Oklahoma City.
In a corresponding move, the Astros have purchased the contract of right-hander Fernando Rodriguez from Oklahoma City.
The 26-year-old Rodriguez, who signed as a minor league free agent during the offseason, went 2-3 with a 1.29 ERA with two saves over 13 relief appearances while yielding just a .155 batting average to opposing hitters for the RedHawks this season.
It marks the second time in Rodriguez’s career in which he’ll get a taste of the big leagues, as the right-hander made one relief appearance for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009.
Rodriguez will be expected to join the Astros in St. Louis for the two-game series opener Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
Houston’s 40-man roster now stands at 38.
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