JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced his rotation to start the year on Tuesday, revealing right-hander Lance McCullers would start the second game of the season on April 4 against the Mariners in Houston, with righty Charlie Morton for the third game on April 5."It was really splitting
JUPITER, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced his rotation to start the year on Tuesday, revealing right-hander Lance McCullers would start the second game of the season on April 4 against the Mariners in Houston, with righty Charlie Morton for the third game on April 5.
"It was really splitting hairs with deciding between the two of them," Hinch said. "McCullers will start on regular rest after his outing at Minute Maid [in Thursday's exhibition against the Cubs]. There was really not a ton of drama surrounding it. I just had to pick. We'll go McCullers two and Morton three."
Hinch had previously announced left-hander Dallas Keuchel would make his third consecutive Opening Day start on Monday against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Joe Musgrove will start on April 6 to close out the series with the Mariners, and righty Mike Fiers will start the April 7 series opener against the Royals in Houston. Right-hander Collin McHugh will start the season on the disabled list as he works his way back from arm fatigue.
"I consider all of our guys to have an order once at the very beginning of the season, and then I don't think it's much of a ranking," Hinch said.
The way the rotation maps out, Morton and Musgrove would face the Mariners in their first two starts to begin the season, and McCullers would go on April 9 against the Royals, who he hasn't faced since Game 4 of the 2015 American League Division Series in which he allowed two runs on two hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"Recovery and trying to keep as many guys on schedule as possible was the key," Hinch said. "We have the two off-days after the exhibition games, which is a little bit abnormal. We have a chance to keep Lance on a normal bullpen, a couple of days off and pitch."
Hinch said McCullers, who will start Thursday's game against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park, has done a nice job refining his pitching this spring while working himself back from injury, including the development of his changeup, his fastball usage and his ability to hold runners.
"Every stage of being a more complete pitcher we've seen this spring, and I'm proud of him for that," Hinch said.
Morton will throw six or seven innings in Minor League camp on Wednesday, giving him a week before he makes his first start of the season. McHugh will throw on Saturday in Minor League camp and would need perhaps two or three starts before joining the club.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.