When the Astros called up Dallas Keuchel in June, the team temporarily employed a six-man starting rotation. The experiment was short-lived as Keuchel was optioned back to AAA at the All-Star break. After a brief stint at Oklahoma City, Keuchel rejoined the big league rotation. The Astros have since traded away Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ, leaving Bud Norris as the only starter with a substantial amount of big league innings under his belt. Keuchel, Lucas Harrell, and Jordan Lyles are all approaching personal highs in innings pitched for a season. In an effort to limit their workloads the Astros are once again considering a six-man rotation.
Fernando Abad recently replaced Armando Galarraga as the fifth member of the rotation. But who is in line to become starter number six? There are actually more possibilities than you might think. The man least likely to fill that spot is our old pal Roger Clemens. The Rocket told Alan Blondin of Chron Sports:
"I didn’t come out of retirement. That was an independent start and pretty fun. We came out of it all right and everybody had a good time, so that was the key."
Clemens has turned his attention to golf this week. Roger and his wife Debbie are currently competing in the World Amateur Handicap Championships in South Carolina. Clemens said he doesn’t have any more pitching performances planned. But the seven time Cy Young Award winner didn’t rule out the possibility entirely, saying “that could change.” Still, Clemens is a longshot to be sporting an Astros uniform in September.
But there is another Astros legend that just might be a possibility. Roy Oswalt has reportedly cleared waivers and is being shopped by the Texas Rangers. Oswalt is owed approximately $1 million for the remainder of the season. The question is whether or not the Astros would be willing to pick up the tab necessary to bring the Wizard back to Houston. Probably not.
A more likely candidate could be 29 year-old righthander Edgar Gonzalez. The Astros recently signed Gonzalez, who was pitching in the Mexican Leagues, to a minor league contract. Gonzalez has appeared in 107 big league games, including 41 starts, with the Diamondbacks and Rockies. His career WHIP of 1.57 leaves much to be desired, but then again, we’re just looking for an innings eater at this point.
Other in-house options that are currently pitching in the Astros organization include Aneury Rodriguez and Brett Oberholtzer. Rodriguez is less likely – due to the fact that he has struggled as a starter and has been pitching out of the bullpen. However, Oberholtzer’s name has been mentioned by G.M. Jeff Luhnow as a possible September call up. Oberholtzer, a 23 year-old lefty, started the season at AA before earning a mid-season promotion to Oklahoma City. Brett has already pitched 159 innings this year, which would seem to be an issue.
Luhnow and pitching coach Doug Brocail have not formally committed to the six-man rotation. Luhnow told Zachary Levine:
"The first sign of any discomfort or anything like that, we’ll very quickly react, but right now the plan is for all of them to keep pitching."
Considering the Astros place in the standings, I would rather see the organization take a more conservative approach with their young arms. I wanted to keep Livan Hernandez on the team for just that reason. Heck, I don’t think things would have worked out any worse.