The Houston Astros set their rotation for the first week of the season.
Unfortunately, Collin McHugh will not be part of the rotation for the first two turns. McHugh will pitch in today’s Houston Astros game, but he is not ready to go 5-7 innings. He pitched in a minor league game last Wednesday. According to Brian McTaggart, McHugh threw 41 pitches topping out at 88 mph. He is not ready to go all out and reach the nineties with his fastball.
As we talked about yesterday on Talking Stros, it will be better if McHugh starts the season on the DL. This will also allow the team to see exactly what Brad Peacock can offer this year as the long reliever. Should he fail, it would be easier to pass him through waivers when McHugh returns. Should he succeed, he could give the Astros a little more trade value than he currently has.
With opening day a week away, the Houston Astros rotation is set. Late last week, Dallas Keuchel was officially named the opening day starter for the third season in a row. Despite the injuries that led to Keuchel having his worst season since 2013, he is the best man for the job. Should he return to at least his 2014 form, he would be a key piece to the success this year.
A tie for second and third?
Surprise, remember that guy we signed this offseason for two seasons and $14 million. That would be Charlie Morton, who has opened some eyes this spring. As we mentioned on Talking Stros, Morton has a 2-0 record with a 1.04 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 17 innings. When he was signed, no one expected him to pitch the second game of the season.
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This revelation could come to fruition with the way the rotation currently lines up. This past week, Morton pitched between Keuchel and Lance McCullers. Morton is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in the final game in Florida before the Houston Astros head home. That would set him up for the second start of the season versus the Mariners. Morton has had a great spring, but it would be hard to imagine him as the second best pitcher on this team.
That is how the cookie crumbles, but McCullers is the second best pitcher on this team. Instead, he is lined up to pitch the third game of the season, but A.J. Hinch could switch the two pitchers. Despite racking up the strikeouts, McCullers 6.00 spring ERA is the highest of the primary starters to start the season. He did not finish four innings the other day, but he did throw 85 pitches, so he is stretched out. McCullers will pitch the first exhibition game in Houston.
The battle wages on.
Joe Musgrove was named as the fourth pitcher to start the season by Hinch on Saturday. Hinch told Musgrove a week ago that he had made the team. He didn’t want Musgrove to worry about making the team, but rather to focus on getting ready. Hinch said on the Root Sports broadcast of Sunday’s game that he told Musgrove the hardest choice he has to make is to decide to pitch him versus the Mariners or the Royals.
With McHugh on the DL, Mike Fiers will make the team as the fifth starter for now. This will give Fiers some starts in case he needs to start again at some point this season. While the rotation is not as appealing without McHugh in it, this could be an underrated rotation behind a strong offense. Between Musgrove and Fiers, whoever struggles could be replaced we McHugh returns. However, I think you keep the young arm in the rotation.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***