WASHINGTON -- Considering how much trouble hard-throwing reliever Rhiner Cruz had throwing strikes early in Spring Training, it seemed unlikely the Rule 5 Draft pick would make the club, much less make a good early impression on manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Doug Brocail.
Cruz, who can touch 100 mph, threw a scoreless inning Tuesday to extend his consecutive scoreless-innings streak to begin his career to 5 1/3 innings. Mills admitted Cruz had all kinds of mechanical issues early in the spring that the Astros had to slowly work through, including re-positioning him in the middle of the pitching rubber.
"It was everything from where he was on the rubber, his setup with his hands, his setup with his body and everything else," Mills said. "It seemed to work in Spring Training. The first few outings were kind of rough, and he slowly got better and better and continued to work.
"You have to tip your hat to not only [Brocail] and [bullpen coach] Craig Bjornson, but also to Rhiner for being willing to work every day on the little things and continue to do it and get better. So far, he's been throwing the ball extremely well."
The Astros even had Cruz throw with his eyes closed in Spring Training in order to get a better feel for his release point.