Astros Spring Checkup Report: McHugh, Stubbs, and Morton

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Feb 15, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) fields ground balls during spring training workouts at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) fields ground balls during spring training workouts at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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Astros have some minor injuries at camp, but nothing serious as of now.

The Houston Astros have now played three Spring games, with a 2-1 record with two straight comeback wins. Wins and losses mean very little in spring training, but the guys getting their work in and staying healthy is key. So far, it looks like Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers are healthy this Spring.

The top two pitchers in this Astros rotation will have a great influence on how successful the team is. While they will lead the rotation, they need to have the complementary pieces to go with them. This is why A.J. Hinch needs the likes of Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton to stabilize the rotation. Not to raise any panic, but McHugh is behind the other starters this Spring.

Last year, McHugh didn’t get off to the best start. After a rough patch, he was the best starting pitcher down the stretch with McCullers and Keuchel on the shelf. According to Jake Kaplan, McHugh has had trouble getting going.

"“McHugh revealed Monday his pitching arm didn’t respond as well as he would’ve liked in the week leading to spring training.” – Jake Kaplan"

Kaplan went on to say that while McHugh has done the long toss, but he has yet to pitch off the mound. This is something that McCullers and Keuchel have both done. While there is some cause for concern, McHugh feels like he should be ready to go to start the third game of the season. Kaplan wrote that most pitchers experience ‘dead arm’ towards middle to late spring training. McHugh is just getting it out of the way early.

McHugh could be considered a veteran by now, so he could get ready in four starts or less this Spring. With the World Baseball Classic this Spring, spring training is a week longer anyway. The Astros will be depending on McHugh, but the wild card of the rotation could be Morton.

Morton.

Last season was not kind to Morton as he missed most of the season, only making four starts and pitching 17 1/3 innings. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, Morton struck out 19 hitters in his limited time last year. Morton will make his fist start this Friday, so Astros fans will be watching to see what he can offer. With the money they spent on him this offseason, you have to assume he’s the fourth starter.

Kaplan Tweeted that young catcher Garrett Stubbs is nursing a sore throwing shoulder. While he is unlikely to make the opening day roster, his future is bright. He has not appeared in any games yet. Stubbs may be undersized for a catcher, but he offers potential all-around game offensively. This will be Stubbs first appearance in big league camp, but this is a good thing for Max Stassi, who gets the extra playing time. Because Stassi is out of options, the Astros will see what he can offer before they let him get away.

Next: WBC offers a chance for the young Astros to get more looks this Spring.

With Keuchel and McCullers getting their second batting practice already or soon, they should appear in a game after that. If McHugh’s dead arm continues to linger, we can worry then.

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