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Houston Astros Starting Pitching Dilemma? Not so fast…

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There is a really simple solution to having Roberto Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski on the big league roster. In the last few years, minor league pitchers in the Houston Astros system have gotten their work in every 4th or 5th day. That is right. I am calling for the Astros to utilize the tandem system at the major league level.

It may not be the popular decision. The players may not want to only work 5 innings or throw 75 pitches. But the Astros currently have a luxury that should not be removed. The rotation battle in spring training was a pleasant change. Gone are the days of guys like Henry Sosa, Paul Clemens, Aneury Rodriguez or Lucas Harrell scrapping their ways to be the best mutt on the side of the road.

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The 2015 competition has featured a nine-year MLB veteran in Roberto Hernandez, formerly Fausto Carmona, who has a 4.60 ERA across 1264 1/3 big league innings. He has pitched in at least 22 games in all but two of his seasons in the major leagues. While he’s not the most attractive guy on paper regarding his statistics, he is going to work some innings for the Astros in 2015.

Then there was my favorite for the fifth spot, Dan Straily, who was acquired with Luis Valbuena in return for Dexter Fowler. Straily had great numbers in his first 34 starts with the Athletics in 2012 and 2013. For some reason things soured in 2014 where he struggled to a 6.75 combined ERA between the A’s and the Cubs in just 52 innings.

Asher Wojciechowski (did I spell his name right?) is known simply as Wojo by many fans. Originally a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2010, the Astros acquired him a couple of years ago in the massive 10-player trade.

side-note: (David Rollins was also sent to Houston in that deal, but figures to be a part of the Mariners bullpen in 2015 due to the Rule 5 draft this past offseason.)

Back to Wojo. He has definitely earned his spot in the rotation this season.  In Wednesday’s March 25 game against the Phillies, Wojo drove in a run on a sac fly. It’s hard to believe but his ERA actually went up to 1.08, a testament of how well he has exceeded expectations this spring.

Unfortunately the battle with Hernandez has been a David v. Goliath scenario. Hernandez’ experience makes it very difficult for the organization to opt out and put a rookie in the rotation to earn the season.  This is all despite a 3.75 ERA throughout a 5-year minor league career that has been hampered by injuries, as evidenced by just 515 1/3 innings.

The fourth candidate showed signs of improvement last season. Brad Peacock, who surprisingly started 24 games in 2014, is held back a little due to offseason surgery. Another former first-round pick, Brad has accumulated 227 innings at the MLB level. While his 2014 ERA improved to 4.72 from 5.18 the year prior, Peacock’s 4.8 BB/9 rate was not pleasant to watch.

These four arms are all worthy of being on an MLB roster. There is a roster dilemma. Hernandez has to be added to the 40-man roster, which is full, in order to make the team. Samuel Deduno has done well this spring in trying to make the club as a long reliever. Sending Wojo to AAA is obviously the decision that most folks think will happen.

The Astros have some depth regarding their pitching. How they handle their insurance policies is still to be determined. Wojo has earned the call-up for opening day and a tandem for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation is the best way for everyone to get major league work.

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