Astros: The Collin McHugh effect on the Stros rotation

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Sep 26, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro (15) talks with starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro (15) talks with starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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There will be a lot of attention in one of the backfields of the Astros spring training complex as McHugh is set to pitch in a minor league game today.

Collin McHugh has not pitched in a big league game yet this spring training with the Astros. Last Friday, McHugh did pitch in a minor league game. While we are not sure of the details of McHugh’s start, he did pitch two innings. This was done in the backfields, just trying to start building up his pitch count. According to Jake Kaplan, McHugh will throw in another minor league game on today.

Kaplan hinted that McHugh would try to pitch three innings or throw 45 pitches during today’s minor league appearance. Should McHugh feel as good after his second game, the Astros will probably schedule his next game to be the following Monday (60 pitches). Continuing the pattern, McHugh would probably pitch the Friday (80 pitches) before the season starts.

Typically managers like to get starters up to five innings pitched before the season starts. If all goes well, McHugh could pitch five innings on March 31st. He would then be available to pitch the April 5th game versus the Mariners. That is in a perfect world, Kaplan suggests that we may not see McHugh in the first or second series.

Will he be ready?

When he pitches in the regular season could depend on how his arm reacts to being stretched out. As Brian McTaggart wrote yesterday, McHugh could change the composition of the opening day roster. If he is not ready to pitch in the first week, the Astros could choose to carry an extra pitcher. In other words, Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove could both get into the rotation, at least temporarily. They have been battling for the fifth starter.

The battle for the fifth starter.

Most people had already penciled Fiers into the bullpen, but then he had to go out and do good. Fiers got the win yesterday behind four shutout innings with five strikeouts. This is after missing about a week after having his start skipped. Musgrove has pitched consistently better than Fiers, which means something if you try to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.

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Fiers: 1-0/ 2.16 ERA/ eight strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings.

Musgrove: 2-0/ 2.65 ERA/ 11 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Hinch says that there is nothing wrong with McHugh, he is just behind all the other starters. McTaggart wrote that Hinch hopes to have the rotation set at some point this next week. One person who is probably secretly keeping an eye on McHugh. That is Brad Peacock, who is out of options. Should he not make the team, he would have to pass through waivers before he can report to the minors.

The next step.

If McHugh is delayed and put on the DL, the Astros could hold onto Peacock for a little while out of the bullpen. Once McHugh is ready to go, they can then have a better idea as what Peacock can offer. Personally, I’m rooting for McHugh. He is probably eager to get off to a better start this year. The team is a better team with McHugh pitching, but let’s hope things go well today.

Next: Astros Minors: Triple A Fresno looks to be loaded with MLB Talent

Update: McTaggart Tweeted that McHugh pitched two innings in a minor league game, he threw 27 pitches. During the outing, he was hitting 88 mph with the fastball. Last year, according to Fangraphs, McHugh threw 90.2 mph on his fastball. McHugh is not to full strength yet, but he’s behind schedule. He ended up finishing with 41 pitches in three innings. McHugh said the next few days would be crucial for him to see where he is at. He also said that the next step is to keep going every five days.

***Stats from MLB.com***

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