Hoyt, Gustave vying for final roster spot

With Musgrove making OD squad, relievers compete to lock up final slot in bullpen

March 26th, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's down to relievers and for the last spot on the Astros' Opening Day roster after manager A.J. Hinch on Sunday told starting pitcher Joe Musgrove he had made the team. He will start the fourth game of the season, April 6 against Seattle, and Mike Fiers will start the fifth game, April 7 against Kansas City, with Collin McHugh likely beginning the year on the disabled list.

With the 12 position players set and the rotation largely mapped out -- will start Opening Day, April 3, against Seattle and and Charlie Morton will start the second and third games of the season -- Gustave and Hoyt are battling for the final spot in the eight-man bullpen. 

Hinch met with Hoyt and Gustave early Sunday to explain where they stand and "offer some encouragement." He also met with non-roster invitee , who's still in camp.

"It's miserable being this guy," Hinch said. "Hoyt's been this guy for the last couple of years; Gustave is the first time being this close to the team, Diaz as well. I don't want them to put so much pressure on themselves in the last outing or two they're going to have.

"It's a longer-view determination. We're paying close attention to guys getting left-handed hitters out as an additional type of left-handed pitcher, even though they're right-handed. In their short sample size in the big leagues, Hoyt has some swing-and-miss in him, Gustave has controlled damage. Even when you look at that over the last year, it's a really, really close race. They're both going to pitch for us in the big leagues."

The seven relievers who have made the club are lefty and right-handers , Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, , and likely Brad Peacock.

"Peacock's in a really good position to make our team, and I see him making our team," Hinch said. "He's got length, he can protect our rotation. He's shown some versatility. ... I'm comfortable with multiple innings out of Peacock in the bullpen. With Collin mostly likely starting the season on the DL, we want to protect all our starters."

Devenski can throw multiple innings, and he often did last season, but having Peacock in a long-relief role allows Hinch to use Devenski in more high-leverage situations. Hinch said the decision on whether to keep Hoyt or Gustave will be made after each pitches in next weekend's exhibition games at Minute Maid Park against the Cubs.

"A lot can happen between now and Friday," Hinch said. "I hope nothing happens. The roster can change a touch. I leave myself an out on a couple of different fronts just because I've seen chaos at the end of camp before. I don't want to see that now. I don't think we're going to have any problems or any unexpected changes. There's no closer way to dangle the carrot than to move them into a locker [at Minute Maid Park] that may not be theirs. That's the brutal side of the business."