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Astros Pitching Coach Forced Out, At Odd With Mills

By ROBERT HENSLEE, SportsRadio 610
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(credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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The Astros fired once-heralded pitching coach Brad Arnsberg Tuesday, apparently the culmination of growing friction between Arnsberg and his manager Brad Mills.  General Manager Ed Wade fired the team’s pitching coach over the phone this morning, telling the media they had “philsophical differences”.

While the Astros would not elaborate on the reasons for Arnsberg’s firing, SportsRadio 610 has learned Arnsberg had a falling out with manager Brad Mills over a period of several weeks.  Neither Arnsberg or Mills would speak specifically about their disagreements. 

“I don’t want to get specific,” Mills said in his pregame news conference. “I can’t say enough for what’s he’s brought to this ballclub and to some of those pitchers.  He’s done a great job of working with them, and I think that’s where it needs to stay.

“We’re all trying to accomplish and create an atmosphere and do whatever we can for these guys to be successful.”

brad arnsberg Astros Pitching Coach Forced Out, At Odd With Mills
Brad Arnsberg(credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

When asked whether the decision to let Arnsberg go had been building over a long period, Mills toldthe media:  “We had some other conversations.  I think that’s kind of all that needs to be said.”

A source within the organization says the friction was building over the last month. Arnsberg was not happy with the overall quality of his pitching staff and, according to the source, didn’t handle his frustrations well. The last straw came when Arnsberg directed heated words at Mills in the dugout during the Braves series. Mills did not respond immediately but told Arnsberg they would need to meet in his office later. 

Doug Brocail, who had been serving as a special assistant to Wade, will take over the pitching coach duties on an interim basis.  He pitched four of his fifteen major league seasons with the Astros before joining the front office.

Brocail inherits a pitching staff that is in shambles, having been riddled with injuries and ineffectiveness in Arnsberg ’s second season on the job.

The Astros have a 4.69 ERA this season, second-worst in the major leagues, and the bullpen has coughed up more saves than any other team.

doug brocail Astros Pitching Coach Forced Out, At Odd With Mills
(credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Brett Myers, who went 14-8 a year ago, has reverted to his pre-Houston form, posting a 2-6 record and a 5.04 ERA.  Arnsberg was largely credited for Myers renaissance in 2010.

Brandon Lyon, who had 20 saves after taking over the closer’s role in 2010, has collapsed in the second year of his three-year,15 million dollar contract.  Lyon, who went 6-6 with  3.12 ERA last year, has been trying to pitch through shoulder problems and has an 11.48 ERA in 15 games.

In addition, J. A. Happ has struggled in his first full season after coming to Houston as a key cog in the Roy Oswalt trade.  Nelson Figueroa started the season in the rotation but was sent down after putting up an 8.69 ERA in 8 appearances. 

Aneury Rodriguez, who the Astros selected in the Rule V draft during the offseason, has proven he’s not ready for a big league rotation, failing miserably after replacing Figueroa in the rotation.  Rodriguez is 0-4 with a 5.96 ERA in 17 appearances, including 8 starts.

Wade’s decision to fire Arnsberg comes as the Astros await approval from major league baseball on Drayton McLane’s sale of the team to Houston businessman Jim Crane.  The deal is expected to be approved sometime within the next month.

Crane has not divulged his plans for the ballclub, but he is expected to make changes on several different levels once he takes over ownership.  Wade’s own job could be in jeopardy soon with the Astros holding a 25-42 won-loss mark, the worst record in baseball.

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