The Sugar Land Skeeters had a mixed blessing in June when star closer Felipe Paulino had his contract purchased by the Houston Astros and he was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.
Last week the 35-year-old left the Express and returned to Sugar Land where he hopes to help the Skeeters defend the Atlantic League championship.
“I enjoyed my time and I’m really happy to be back here with the Sugar Land Skeeters,” the Venezuelan native said. “Back here, I’m happy here, this is my home. I just want to be a part of the Sugar Land Skeeters playoff games.”
Paulino made 22 appearances with Round Rock, earning seven saves and striking out 22 batters in 20 2/3 innings of work. He was one step away from returning to the Astros where he began his Major League Career in 2007. He also appeared at the Major League level with the Colorado Rockies (2011), Kansas City Royals (2011-12) and Chicago White Sox (2014). He’s 13-34 with a 5.22 ERA in 97 games at the Major League level (403.2 IP).
Paulino first joined the Skeeters in 2017 and his 63 career saves are second-most in Skeeters history, trailing former Major League right-hander Gary Majewski (72). He set the Skeeters single-season record and led the Atlantic League with 33 saves in 2018. Through 22 appearances this season, Paulino was 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and was second in the league with 14 saves at the time his contract was purchased. His 33 strikeouts were also the most of any Atlantic League reliever at the time.
“We were all hoping he’d get called up and get to the big leagues with the Astros but if that’s not going to happen, Pauly’s been one of the best pitchers in this league for the last three years,” Skeeters Manager Pete Incaviglia said. “He’s been dominating as a closer in this league. He had 30-plus saves for us last year. It’s a huge piece to have back in that bullpen, so we’re excited and happy to have him back.”
Paulino said he was thankful for another shot at affiliated ball but is pleased to be back in Sugar Land.
“In my 19-year career, just to get another opportunity to prove I still can still pitch, I’m really happy. I enjoyed my short time up there,” he said.
The Houston area has been Paulino’s home the last 12 years and his family is here. At 35, he doesn’t know how many more chances he’ll have at another championship. The Skeeters have secured one of four playoff spots.
“I want to keep pitching a few more times. At some point I’ll retire but I want to squeeze everything I can into this moment and be active as a player,” he said.
“He’s one of the clubhouse leaders he’s a leader in the bullpen, he’s a leader on the pitching staff and quite frankly the ballclub,” Incaviglia said. “He’s very well respected in the clubhouse as well he should be. He goes about his business the right way. He’s a complete professional, he cares about winning, he cares about the organization and he cares about his teammates.”
Home sweet home
The Skeeters have struggled lately, losing three of four on the road to division rival and leader York Revolution. They returned to Constellation Field on Friday and swept the High Point Rockers in a three-game weekend series. On Tuesday the Skeeters host the Revs for three games, trailing York in the second half standings by three games.
In addition to re-signing Paulino, pitcher Brett Eibner was assigned to the Skeeters.
The Skeeters host the York Revolution Tuesday through Thursday and then hit the road to play Liberty Division leader Long Island Ducks for three games, the Somerset Patriots for three games and then the New Britain Bees for four games. They return to Constellation Field Sept. 17
for the final home stand of the regular season with three games against the Patriots and three with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The Skeeters host the first two games of the Freedom Division Championship Series on Sept. 24-25.
Skeeter of the Week
Catcher Albert “Coco” Cordero, who has been up and down this season, belted two home runs in Friday’s 7-2 win over the Rockers and had just notched an RBI with a double on Saturday when he tweaked his hamstring and had to leave the game. For his efforts, he is the Skeeter of the Week.
Atlantic League Second Half Standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
York Revolution 31-19-0
Sugar Land Skeeters 28-22-3
S. Maryland Blue Crabs 24-26-7
Lancaster Barnstormers 21-29-10
Long Island Ducks 28-21-0
High Point Rockers 25-25-3.5
New Britain Bees 23-26-5
Somerset Patriots 19-31-9.5
Revolution 8, Skeeters 7
Skeeters 11, Revolution 4
Revolution 9, Skeeters 7
Revolution 6, Skeeters 4
Skeeters 7, Rockers 2
Skeeters 8, Rockers 3
Skeeters 3, Rockers 0