Rookie Street Making Huge Strides for A’s
Huston Street’s ascension from star college closer to overpowering major league reliever took all of a year.
He’s barely 22, and Athletics officials knew he would be good -- but hardly considered the notion of him adeptly handling the late-game pressure in the middle of a pennant race as a rookie.
Street rarely surprises himself. He expected to play professional baseball from the day he first picked up a ball and glove, and already was working to locate his pitches to different parts of the plate at age 9. Most kids aren’t doing that until they’re teenagers.
“My attitude and my mentality and the way I was brought up from both of my parents, they were always preaching to stay ahead of the game and you never want to act your age,” he said. “When you’re 22, you don’t want to be 22 and when you’re 60, you don’t want to act like you’re 60, you want to act like you’re 22. My job is simple: Stay focused on what I have to do.”
Always considered the club’s closer of the future, Street took over the role much sooner than expected when Octavio Dotel was sidelined May 20 with a season-ending elbow injury.
Since then, Street has converted 16 of 19 save opportunities, breaking Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers’ club rookie record for saves in a season set in 1969.
“I’d say he’s done just about everything the right way so far,” A’s pitching coach Curt Young said.
Street headed into the weekend having allowed just 38 hits in 62 innings, with his 1.31 ERA the lowest of any American League reliever with more than 30 innings pitched.
“He doesn’t act like he’s 22,” A’s catcher Jason Kendall said. “I think the one thing about him is every time he goes out there, he’s going to get better and better. He was thrown right into a role and he’s done an unbelievable job. He doesn’t let anything faze him.”
The right-hander wasn’t even the A’s top pick in last year’s draft -- he was their fourth. They took him with a compensation selection following the first round, 40th overall, which the team received when it lost 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada to the Baltimore Orioles.
Street pitched at three levels of the A’s farm system in 2004, notching eight saves with a 1.38 ERA for Class A Kane County, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.
“He’s so much fun to watch,” said starter Rich Harden, who is Street’s housemate and also plays the guitar with him each night and video games before they take the field. “He’s so dominant. Everybody is in a little bit of awe watching him.”
During warmups for a recent game, Street hustled out with a bullpen’s worth of water bottles in his arms and one in each back pocket. He embraces such rookie rituals with a good-natured smile, then goes to work.
In a 4-0 win over Kansas City on Aug. 19, Street came in and calmly recorded five outs -- escaping a bases-loaded jam for the save. About an hour afterward, he stopped his black SUV to sign autographs for the throng of fans waiting by the exit to the player parking lot. “It’s Huston!” one woman hollered.
“He has exceeded any expectations you would have for someone less than a year out of the draft,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said. “Certainly, we probably expected a little more out of him because of the person he is and because of his background, and we all went into spring training hoping he would be ready to contribute at some point this year, but never expecting he’d be closing games in June.”