McHugh may cause ripple effects in rotation

Hinch not sure if righty will be ready, hopes to have starting five set soon

March 21st, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The growing likelihood that right-hander won't be ready for the start of the regular season could cause ripple effects to the back of the Astros' rotation, where Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove are battling for the fifth spot.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday that McHugh, who was delayed in his throwing program this spring because of what the pitcher described as "dead arm," might not see action in the final week or so of Grapefruit League games. McHugh is scheduled to throw his second Minor League game Wednesday as he continues to get stretched out.

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"We don't have much time left," Hinch said. "I think the volume and his ability to feel good going into the season -- we're cutting it really close. We'll know as he gets a couple of more outings underneath his belt. He's just behind. He doesn't have any problems anymore; it's a readiness question. I have confidence in our entire group of rotation candidates. If he is late to the season, we certainly have guys that can fill out the rotation and be good, but we're certainly cutting it really close and it's going to be a last-minute decision."

Hinch would like to have his five-man rotation set by early next week. So far, , and Charlie Morton are rotation locks, with McHugh taking a spot when he gets built up. In the meantime, Musgrove and Fiers could both make the rotation to start the year. Brad Peacock, who's out of options, could benefit if McHugh starts the year on a rehab assignment and earn a spot as a long-relief option.

, and are also in the mix for a couple of open spots at the end of the bullpen behind , Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, , and .

"The bullpen decision is probably going to be a last-minute decision based on how things shake out in the rotation," Hinch said.