Astros News: Starting rotation lining up for start of season

The Houston Astros are lining up their starting rotation for the beginning of the season.

With Opening Day just over a week away, the Houston Astros are lining up their starting rotation. As expected, Justin Verlander will take the ball in the first game of the season, making the 12th Opening Day start of his career, but there is a slight twist after that.

Verlander will tie Bert Blyleven and Pete Alexander for the eighth-most Opening Day starts in the modern era. The only pitchers who made more are all in the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Roger Clemens. I see no reason why Verlander can’t continue adding on to that number as well.

Zack Greinke, however, probably will not be starting the second game as had been expected. While not confirming anything, manager Dusty Baker’s comments seemed to point toward Lance McCullers Jr. taking the ball in the second game. This isn’t an indictment on Greinke’s effectiveness, but rather a result of an unfortunate delay.

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Greinke’s throwing schedule was affected by the missed workout on Sunday, which puts him a step behind. McCullers is slated to start Monday’s exhibition game in Kansas City, so he would be ready to start game two of the regular season on the normal four days rest.

Game Three?

Whether Greinke would be ready to take the ball in the third game is unclear. He’s slated to start today’s intrasquad game against Josh James at Minute Maid Park. James is also slated to start the second exhibition game in Kansas City on Tuesday, so he would be able to start the third game on normal rest as well.

With that being the case, we might not see Greinke until the fourth or fifth game of the season, depending on how they can line him up and how his throwing program progresses. Framber Valdez, the presumed fifth starter, could get lined up to start either the fourth or fifth game depending on Greinke’s progress.

Starting Greinke in the fifth game might actually be the way to go. The Astros will play their first four games against the lowly Mariners, but the following two will be against the Dodgers. Greinke starting the fifth game would have him pitching in the first game of that Dodgers series with Verlander lined up to pitch the second.

The actual rotation will probably be dictated by everyone’s readiness, but if the team can get Greinke lined up to open against the Dodgers, that’s a nice 1-2 punch to give them in that two-game series. In such a short season, a couple of games can make a really big difference.

If Greinke isn’t ready for some reason, it’s unclear who would take his place. Austin Pruitt likely won’t be ready for the start of the season as he works his way back from a bone bruise, so the team might have to turn to Cy Sneed or Cristian Javier if they need a spot start. But hopefully Greinke will be ready to go and the Astros will be off to the races.