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Astros: Spring Training pitching battle for the 5th spot

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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Astros’ pitchers and catchers report tomorrow and Spring Training games are right around the corner. What should we watch for this Spring?

Baseball season has finally arrived! Pitchers and catchers begin their workouts Thursday and the rest of the squad starts Feb. 18. The Astros kick off their quest to “Take it Back”. As Spring Training progresses toward opening day, there are some intriguing questions that need to be answered.

Who will be occupying that fifth spot in the starting rotation is probably one of the most pressing questions this Spring. Collin McHugh and newly acquired Wade Miley are pretty much a lock for the third and fourth positions behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. But the fifth starter isn’t quite as clear cut.

Early indications are leaning more toward Josh James as the odds on favorite. His showing after his call-up at the end of last season definitely helped his case. He won two out of three starts and earned two holds in three relief appearances, all with an ERA of 2.35 and a strikeout ratio of 11.3/9 IP. Not a bad debut by any means.

But the job isn’t going to be handed to him, he’s going to have some stiff competition this Spring. Framber Valdez might put up quite a battle when looking at his performance last season. In eight appearances, with five starts, he went 4-1 and earned one hold, all while brandishing a 2.19 ERA.

I’m sure Brad Peacock will also do his best to fight his way back into the rotation. In 2017, before he was relegated to the bullpen, he started 34 games for the Astros going 13-2 with a 3.00 ERA and striking out 11 batters per nine innings.

Non-roster invitees Forrest Whitley, Corbin Martin and J. B. Bukauskas will also get their chance to show their stuff. All three in Houston’s top ten prospects, with Whitley the #2 prospect and the top pitching prospect in the Majors. Whitley may spend some more time in the minors and get the call-up later in the league.

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It will be an interesting battle for sure and a fun one to watch. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy competition among teammates to bring out the best in them.

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