Newcomer Fister to open Astros' spring slate

Competing with Feldman and Fiers for final two rotation spots, righty to start Thursday

February 28th, 2016
"It made sense to have our newest guy to kick us off," A.J. Hinch said of Doug Fister. (AP)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Doug Fister, who signed with the Astros in January, will get the starting assignment when the Astros open Grapefruit League play on Thursday against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday.

"I want to get a good look at him," Hinch said. "Also, his readiness, and I want to get him off the mound early so that we can get to know him a little bit better. Everybody is going to get into their slots and get an opportunity. We're going to have six or seven guys actually start games, maybe eight, depending on how we handle the Minor Leagues vs. Major League outings for some of our guys -- [Dallas] Keuchel, [Collin] McHugh, that kind of group. It made sense to have our newest guy to kick us off so we can have competition with him."

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Fister, who signed for a base salary of $7 million and could earn another $5 million in incentives based on his number of innings pitched, spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals, going 6-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games last year (15 starts). He went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nats in 2014 and finished eighth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

Fister, Scott Feldman and Mike Fiers are competing for the final two spots in the rotation and figure to get plenty of starts this spring, while rotation cornerstones Keuchel, McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. would be more likely to throw in a Minor League game or two to allow other pitchers to get those innings during games.

Hinch didn't say who would start the Osceola Stadium opener Friday against the Cardinals.