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Isotopes: House awaits call to bullpen

Austin House has a whole new appreciation for home this baseball season.

Pitching for his hometown Isotopes is bonus enough for the Albuquerque native, but spending most of last season among the minor league homeless has made suiting up in New Mexico that much sweeter.

House arrived in the Duke City on Thursday without much fanfare. The former La Cueva Bear and University of New Mexico Lobo was not in town for Monday’s Isotopes media day, nor did he expect to be in a ‘Topes uniform for the team’s home opener.

“I went to (Double-A) Hartford for a few days,” House said. “That’s technically where I broke from spring training and I did media day there. Wednesday they told me I was coming to Albuquerque for the opener. Nice surprise, definitely.”

House has yet to make his season debut. He did not get into the action in the Isotopes’ 5-2 loss to visiting Salt Lake on Friday.

La Cueva High School graduate and former University of New Mexico Lobos pitcher Austin House is back with the Isotopes. This is a file photo from 2016. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

La Cueva High School graduate and former University of New Mexico Lobos pitcher Austin House is back with the Isotopes. This is a file photo from 2016. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

But House got a taste of Triple A last season, appearing in 13 games with the Isotopes between April 22 and June 4. The right-handed reliever went 2-1 with a 7.56 earned-run average before being sent back to Hartford. House enjoyed the experience but knew it might be short-lived.

“I came up when (reliever Brian) Schlitter got injured,” House said, “so I knew when he got healthy it might be my spot. I wanted to stay so I just tried to pitch really, really, really good. I think sometimes you can try too hard.”

House wasn’t overly upset about returning to Double A, but he didn’t exactly spend a lot of time in Hartford. Because of extensive stadium construction, the Yard Goats affectionately became known as the Road Goats. They played on the road all season.

“There’s something I never want to do again,” House said. “I had a great roommate and we were a pretty tight-knit bunch – we had to be – but the whole no-privacy thing got old.”

House finished a solid year with the Goats (5-3 record, 3.89 ERA with two saves) and returned to Albuquerque for the offseason. He was a late addition to the Isotopes’ roster this spring but is now focused on doing what’s necessary to spend more of the 2017 season at home.

The key, House said, is mindset.

“(The Rockies) just want to see me compete, compete, compete,” he said, “and have that warrior mentality. They know I have it, they just want to see it every day.”

Although House wouldn’t mind pitching a game at Hartford’s new stadium, he’d much prefer that his next home stadium is a bit closer to home.

“Trying to get up to Denver is the ultimate goal,” House said, “and not just for a cup of coffee. If you’re going to go, you want to go for a couple pots at least.”

FRIDAY: Walks came around to bite the Isotopes in the Bees’ come-from-behind 5-2 win. Starter Matt Flemer allowed just one free pass in six innings and departed with a 2-1 lead, but Albuquerque relievers Shane Carle, Sam Moll and Johendi Jiminian walked two batters apiece in the final three frames. Three of the hitters who walked later scored.

Two of Albuquerque’s three hits came in the third inning, including a two-run single by Noel Cuevas. The Isotopes did not get another hit until there were two outs in the ninth inning.

THE STREAK GOES ON: Outfielder Mike Tauchman had the night off Friday, leaving his club-record hitting streak intact at 26 games. He’s got some ground to cover to approach Joe DiMaggio’s Pacific Coast League record of 61 straight games set in 1933. Joey Cora more recently hit in 37 straight games in 1989.