Who will be the Astros fifth starter while Lance McCullers recovers from his forearm strain?
When Lance McCullers was placed on the DL with his forearm strain, the Astros were not worried because they didn’t need a fifth starter until August 21. It was later announced that McCullers would not pitch until September. We assumed that it would be a minor leaguer coming up to join the rotation, but their thinking may have changed. With Chris Devenski almost ready to return, they may not want to add someone to the 40-man roster for one start or so.
While the Astros have yet to clarify the plans for the rotation, A.J. Hinch did offer a hint on Friday. Via Chandler Rome, Hinch said that they would look on the active roster for a reliever to move into the rotation. Hinch also said that things could change if the bullpen is overworked this weekend versus the Athletics. This means that it could be Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, or Cionel Perez.
A look at the on roster options.
McHugh is probably the most experienced in that group in starting games in the big leagues. Had the Astros not traded for Gerrit Cole, McHugh would still be in the rotation. As we have written recently, McHugh has been a valuable asset in the bullpen. McHugh last pitched one inning on Friday, but how long could he last in the game? It will truly be a bullpen game if he starts on Tuesday. McHugh has a 5-1 record with a 1.12 ERA while striking out 72 batters in 62 2/3 innings, via Baseball-Reference.
Peacock had been used primarily as a one-inning reliever this year, but he had success last year starting. He has a 2-4 record with a 3.23 ERA while striking out 79 in 53 innings pitched. Peacock was one of the long relievers on the playoff roster who got a few starts as well. McHugh and Peacock are valuable because they can be effective as a reliever or a spot starter.
The third on roster option is Perez, who may be more stretched out than the other two. In Double-A, Perez was a starter and had a 6-1 record with a 1.98 ERA while striking out 83 batters in 68 1/3 innings. In his one game in Fresno and his time with the Astros, he has pitched out of the bullpen. He had not pitched since last Wednesday and last started a game on July 8th when he pitched four shutout innings with eight strikeouts.
According to Chandler Rome, Brian McCann caught Josh James in Triple-A to scout him for a potential spot start. There are plenty of options for the Astros, but don’t forget about McCullers when he returns. I would like to see Perez get a chance, but McHugh makes the most sense. We will find out soon. If McHugh pitches today, it is not likely he’s the guy.