Pendleton excited to be with hometown Astros
Rule 5 Draft selection will compete for club's final spot in rotation
HOUSTON -- To say Lance Pendleton was thrilled to be taken by his hometown Astros in last week's Rule 5 Draft would be as much of an understatement as saying kids get a little excited about the thoughts of a certain jolly fat guy sliding down the chimney this time of year.
Pendleton, a Houston native who grew up cheering for the Astros, resigned himself to the fact he wasn't going to get taken in the Rule 5 Draft, though that didn't stop him from pulling up the audio feed on the computer on Thursday before he went to his part-time job at a Christmas tree lot.
"I sat there and listened to it while my son was taking his morning nap," Pendleton said. "I heard in the background someone making a selection for Houston and then they announced: 'Right-handed Pendleton, Lance.' I looked at my wife and said, 'Houston just took me!'
"She thought I was joking. I had been saying that it'd be great to go play for Houston and she's like, 'No, that's not funny, Lance, don't joke.' I was super excited. The next thing you know my wife is jumping up and down like a kid, and I said, 'It's a great thing, but we don't need to go crazy yet.'"
That's because Pendleton, who was taken in the second round from the Yankees, must crack the Astros' 25-man roster on Opening Day and stay there for the entire season, or be offered back to the Yankees. In other words, nothing's guaranteed just yet.
But finding a way onto the Astros' roster would be a dream come true for Pendleton, who grew up attending games with his father, who had season tickets, at the Astrodome and later Minute Maid Park. He even traveled to Chicago for the Astros' World Series games in 2005.
"I've been a big Houston Astros fan for as long as I can remember," he said. "I'd be lying to you, having been in the Yankees' organization, if I said I had followed them nearly as much as I used to. But I'm ready to support them now, if that's all right."
The Astros selected right-handed pitcher Aneury Rodriguez from Tampa Bay in the first round before taking Pendleton, who played at Rice University in Houston.
Pendleton, 27, had pitched in the Yankees' Minor League system since being selected in the fourth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He was 12-5 with a 3.61 ERA in a combined 29 appearances (27 starts) at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year with 57 walks and 133 strikeouts.
In 102 career Minor League appearances (88 starts), he has a 32-22 record and a 3.39 ERA with 168 walks and 421 strikeouts. He missed two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2006, but the time away from the game enabled him to finish his degree at Rice and meet his future wife, Jenny Leigh. The couple's only son, David, will turn 1 on Dec. 20.
"Good things came from the bad," Pendleton said. "I've had three full years healthy, and I've made every start they've asked me to and never gone on the DL and never had any problems. Hopefully, all that is past me."
Pendleton and Rodriguez will come to Spring Training competing for the fifth spot in the rotation with Ryan Rowland-Smith, relievers Fernando Abad and Henry Villar and perhaps even top prospect Jordan Lyles. Pendleton and Rodriguez will undergo more scrutiny considering their Rule 5 status.
"I guess you don't want to get your hopes up, but on the other hand, I'm going to give it everything I've got," Pendleton said. "I've been working hard this offseason in the weight room and getting ready. The Astros are treating me real well. They're allowing me to come down to Minute Maid to work out and get my throwing in down there."
Clubs selecting players in the Rule 5 Draft pay a $50,000 fee to the player's former club. By rule, both Rodriguez and Pendleton must remain on the Astros' Major League roster for the entire 2011 season, or be offered back to their original clubs for a fee of $25,000.
It amounts to a $25,000 tryout -- one Pendleton plans to take advantage of.
"I'm going to put everything I have into the workouts and prepare myself mentally, and I'm going to go into Spring Training looking to win the job," he said. "I'll do whatever they want -- water boy, batboy -- whatever they ask me to do. I'll be excited to do it to make the club."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.