Andre Scrubb knew something big was up when he awoke the morning of July 25 and saw a text message from Los Angeles Dodgers’ vice president and assistant general manager Brandon Gomes asking Scrubb to call him.
A person in Gomes’ position doesn’t contact a player at Double-A just to check in.
Scrubb was right. Gomes had important news to share. It just wasn’t the news Scrubb expected.
Scrubb’s initial thought was a promotion to Triple-A. That made sense. The Hylton High School graduate was pitching well enough for Tulsa to earn a shot at the next level.
But after calling Gomes back, Scrubb learned he was no longer a Dodger. Los Angeles had instead traded him to Houston for Tyler White. The news caught Scrubb off-guard.
It wasn’t until later that day he started to put two and two together. As a reliever, he usually pitched every three to five days, but never went longer than that. Coming into Tulsa’s game that day at Frisco, though, Scrubb had not pitched in five days. Something was definitely going on behind the scenes. With the possibility of a trade waiting in the wings, Tulsa’s manager Scott Hennessey confirmed to Scrubb afterward that he was instructed by the Dodgers to keep Scrubb from pitching until further notice.
In the moment, though, there wasn’t much time to dwell on the sudden change of events. He had to hit the road for his next destination.
After saying his goodbyes, Scrubb and his wife left Frisco (TX), drove back to their apartment in Tulsa and packed up before heading the following day to Northwest Arkansas to meet up with his new team: the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks.
Upon arrival, the Hooks’ coaches asked Scrubb if he was up to pitching that night. Scrubb said he was. Still in the Texas League, but wearing a different uniform with his new organization, Scrubb pitched the ninth inning, striking out two.
“I was ready,” Scrubb said. “At the end of the day, it’s me throwing the ball.”
The trade was the first of five the Astros made by the July 31 deadline and was understandably overshadowed by the biggest transaction of all when Houston sent four players to Arizona for former Cy Young award winner Zack Grienke. It was a move analysts said solidified Houston as the favorite to win the World Series.
But Scrubb was by no means an afterthought to Houston.
“We targeted Andre in our discussions with the Dodgers due to his good mid-90s fastball and hard curveball that misses bats,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We think Andre has strong potential as a relief pitcher with major league upside down the road.”
Kevin Goldstein, special assistant to the general manager and player personnel for the Astros, said Scrubb’s 6-4, 265-pound frame impressed Houston as well.
“We liked Andre because he is a power arm with a physical presence on the mound and a history of missing bats out of the bullpen,” Goldstein said. “In addition to his mid-90s fastball, we liked his curveball which features considerable break. In terms of Andre’s future development, he will need to cut down on walks moving forward.”
After Los Angeles selected Scrubb in the eighth round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Draft out of High Point University, he quickly developed into a prospect for the Dodgers. He’s been named to two all-star games at the Single-A and Double-A levels and has a career record of 21-6 and a 2.37 ERA in 116 games.
Since coming to Houston, he’s given up three earned runs in eight appearances. His best performance so far was Aug. 3 when he struck out five in the final 2.2 innings and allowed no runs to earn the save in a 5-1 win over Midland.
Scrubb said no one told him why the Dodgers traded him, but one possibility was losing him in the Rule 5 Draft.
Since space was tight for Scrubb to secure a spot on Los Angeles’ 40-man roster, he was eligible for the draft next December. If a team selected him, he’s automatically placed on their 40-man roster. The team who loses the drafted player only receives $50,000 as compensation from the team who selected the player.
By joining the Astros’ organization, Scrubb was quickly introduced to the reams of data and technology they use to analyze players. The pitching staff has also started working with him to develop a slider so he has a third pitch in his arsenal.
“I thought the Dodgers were the top of the top, but the Astros take it to a whole other level,” Scrubb said of Houston’s use of analytics.
While sad to leave the only organization he’s known in his four-year professional baseball career, Scrubb was flattered that a team like Houston traded for him. He saw it as a win-win to go from the National League’s best team to one of the top two teams in the American League.
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling that someone like that would want you,” Scrubb said. “They could have chosen someone else, but they chose me.”