Mount Saint Joseph might soon have its eighth Major League Baseball player after former Gaels pitcher Peter Solomon was added to the Houston Astros’ 40-man roster on Nov. 20.
Solomon, an Ellicott City native, would join pitchers Lou Sleater (1950-1958), Tom Phoebus (1966-1972), Gavin Floyd (2004-2016) and Mike O’Connor (2004-2006); second baseman Kurt Seibert (1979); three-time All-Star first baseman Mark Teixieria (2003-2016); and catcher Steve Clevenger (2011-2016) as players from the Irvington school to reach the big leagues.
“They’re guys that had tons of success in the Major Leagues for years — Teixiera winning a World Series,” Solomon said. “To be getting mentioned with those guys is awesome and hopefully I can carry on the tradition of St. Joe guys playing in the major leagues, finding success and doing things the right way.”
Joel Kenney, who pitched with Solomon for two years at Mount Saint Joseph and then York College, thinks Solomon was destined for the majors. Both played in the Brooks Robinson All-Star game after their senior season and won the Heartland Classic in Oklahoma competing for Team Maryland.
“It was very clear from the start that Peter had unbelievable talent and that he had a special arm,” Kenney said. “The velocity he had in high school, paired with the way he could get the ball to move, made it clear he had not only D1 talent, but the talent it took to get drafted. As the seasons went on in high school and more and more scouts would come to the games, it became clear he was going to play professional baseball.”
Solomon capped his Mount Saint Joseph career with an 1.76 ERA in 53 innings, adding 85 strikeouts. He was selected to The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro first team and was named Most Valuable Player of the President’s Cup Showcase. The Padres selected him in the 21st round of the 2014 MLB draft, but he opted to go to Notre Dame.
He began his college career as a reliever, posting a 1.40 ERA in 19⅓ innings in his freshman year. He started nine games as a sophomore, compiling a 4.68 ERA in 57⅔ innings. A formative year for Solomon as a prospect was during the offseason between his sophomore and junior seasons when he pitched for the Harwich Mariners in the wood-bat Cape Cod Baseball League.
While starting just four games in his junior season, he put together a 3.83 ERA in 54 innings, and was picked by the Astros in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Fellow Notre Dame standout and current Astros pitcher Brandon Bielak and former Astros draftee and current Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Corbin Martin have been among Solomon’s biggest confidants in his professional baseball career.
“He pitched in the big leagues this year and I’ve talked with him a good amount because we’re really familiar with each other, we’ve spent a lot of time with one another at Notre Dame and playing with the Astros,” Solomon said of Bielak. “He’s done really well and he’s found a lot of success, so I pick his brain a little bit.”
The connection between Bielak and Solomon goes back to their official visit to Notre Dame in 2014. Ever since they met, they’ve formed a friendship and it continued through 2017, when the two were drafted by the Astros organization. Bielak and Solomon moved up through Houston’s system together until the former was called up to the Major League roster on Jul. 27 of last season.
Both players’ end goals were to make it to the MLB. They continued to push each other and overcome obstacles throughout college ball and the minors. Bielak fondly remembers the growth that they’ve gone through together.
“We both learned a lot about the game of baseball in the minor leagues — especially mentally,” Bielak said. “I think he learned how to prepare his body and his mind to get ready for a start or relief in the Astros organization and just know what he needs to do to prepare his body day in and day out. I think that was the biggest change that I’ve seen from the college to the minor leagues.”
Solomon had a strong beginning to his professional career in 2018 while pitching for Houston’s Single-A affiliates, the Quad Cities River Bandits and Buies Creek Astros. Between both levels, Solomon compiled a 2.32 ERA in 100⅔ innings, striking out 10.2 batters per nine innings. He went on to start two games, recording a 2.35 ERA in 7⅔ innings before being shut down.
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Solomon, 24, was set to miss the entire 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2019 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. With the COVID-19 pandemic shelving the minor league baseball season, it gave the right-hander more time to prepare.
“I had more time — it was nice to know that I wasn’t missing much in terms of games or anything,” Solomon said. “It was a terrible pandemic for a lot of reasons, but for me, it was kind of nice. [I didn’t] have to see all of my buddies out there playing and I just wish I could’ve done that. So, it’s nice not having that in the back of my mind and I can just completely focus on rehab over the course of the pandemic and all of last year.”
Solomon rehabilitated with Martin during his recovery and continued to keep in touch. Both players received Tommy John surgery just weeks apart from one another, so they compared when they returned to throwing, the soreness of their arms and just how their bodies felt in general.
With a chance at making the major league roster at the conclusion of spring training, Solomon is looking to learn, compete and become the best starting pitcher that he’s capable of being. The competition will be steep with a rotation that includes former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke, former All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. and promising young arms in Christian Javier and Jose Urquidy. Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander will likely miss the majority of the 2021 campaign.
“I’m just excited to get to spring training and hopefully be able to pick some of the veteran pitcher’s brains with the things that they think about, how they prepare and what they’ve found success with,” Solomon said. “I think that’s what I’m looking forward to most. Hopefully, things are able to go back to normal, we have a minor league season, there are fans and all of that — just go back to playing baseball. That’s why we do it.”