Austin Pruitt

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Austin Daniel Pruitt

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Austin Pruitt was the first player to make his major league debut in 2017. Playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, the team that had drafted him out of the University of Houston in the 9th round of the 2013 amateur draft, he entered the opening day game against the New York Yankees in the top pf the 9th inning with Tampa holding a 7-2 lead. He was quite unlucky as the first batter he faced, Chase Headley, hit a routine grounder to third, but because of a defensive shift, it went for a hit. Aaron Judge followed with another ground ball to third, but it popped out of Evan Longoria's glove for an error. The next batter, Aaron Hicks, then hit a ball that deflected just off the tip of SS Tim Beckham's glove for a base hit that loaded the bases, and Austin gave way to closer Alex Colome, who retired the next three batters to end the game, with Headley scoring on a sacrifice fly. With just a little better luck, Pruitt could have had a 1-2-3 inning but he ended up not recording an out. It was the beginning of a rough start to Austin's major league career, as he gave up one or more runs in each of his first six appearances, at which point his ERA was up to 15.88. He pitched better after that but was sent down to the minors after allowing 8 runs over his first two games in May. He then was on a shuffle between AAA and the majors, coming back to Tampa from late May to late June, and again in late July. He had made a spot start on April 25th, then beginning on July 28th, was given a chance to start more regularly. On August 2nd, back before friends and family in Houston, TX, he had an outstanding game, holding the powerful Houston Astros scoreless over 6 1/3 innings and getting credit for a 3-0 win. For all the runs he had given up early in the year, he had often found himself at the right place at the right time, as the win improved his record to 6-2 with a save in spite of a 5.65 ERA. He finished the season at 7-5, 5.31 in 30 games, including 8 starts, with 1 save and 83 innings pitched.

In 2018, Pruitt split the year between the minors, where he was 3-0, 3.18 in 14 games with the Durham Bulls in AAA, and the major league Rays, for whom he made 23 appearances, all in relief, and was 2-3, 4.65 with 4 saves. He was often the "bulk man" in bullpen games, a strategy embraced with great enthusiasm by the Rays that year, which meant he logged a total of 69 2/3 innings, which were much more than a random reliever pitching the same number of games would have compiled. In 2019, 2 of his 14 appearances with the Rays were starts and he was 3-0, 4.40 while pitching 47 innings. At Durham, he was 3-3, 5.40 in 18 games as a swingman. The Rays made the postseason as a wild card team, but Pruitt was not on the roster. On January 9, 2020, he was traded to the Houston Astros in return for two minor leaguers, Peyton Battenfield and Cal Stevenson.

He did not appear in any games in 2020, as he suffered a hairline fracture in his elbow when the team Astros resumed training after the three-month interruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. He spent the remainder of the season on the injured list, the started 2021 the same way, eventually starting a rehabilitation assignment with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers on June 15th. He moved up to the AAA Sugar Land Skeeters at the end of June and went 1-0, 3.68 in 5 games before being called up to Houston. He pitched twice for the Astros, allowing 2 runs in 2 2/3 innings, before being designated for assignment on July 28th. Later that day, he was traded to the Miami Marlins alongside minor league OF Bryan De La Cruz in return for P Yimi Garcia.

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