WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Astros' plan was to give right-hander Chris Devenski a long look as a starter this spring, so Wednesday's shaky outing in a 9-5 loss to the Marlins at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches won't go a long way in determining whether he opens
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Astros' plan was to give right-hander Chris Devenski a long look as a starter this spring, so Wednesday's shaky outing in a 9-5 loss to the Marlins at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches won't go a long way in determining whether he opens the season in the rotation or bullpen.
If the Astros have an opening in the rotation -- and health remains a key issue this season with Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and now Collin McHugh -- they could use Devenski in the rotation. If he turns heads this spring and outpitches some of the other fringe rotation candidates, Devenski could be a rotation option.
"We want to give us an option to possibly factor [Devenski] into our rotation if we need it, or if he's one of the better options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's so versatile and so good it's easy for us factor him in in so many different levels. He can compete for a rotation spot, he can fill in if we have injuries, or he can go back into the slot we know he's comfortable at."
Devenski, 26, didn't make the club last spring, but he was in the Majors only days into the season and never left. He went 4-4 with a 2.16 ERA in 48 games with 104 strikeouts and a 0.914 WHIP in 108 1/3 innings. He blossomed in the bullpen, posting a 1.61 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 12 walks in 43 relief outings.
Twenty of his relief outings went at least two innings, including 10 of at least three innings.
"I want to see how it goes, being in the starting rotation," Devenski said. "I like that role I had last year. It's something that I know I can do and excel at, but I also know I could become a good starting pitcher."
Hinch said for Devenski to succeed as a starter, he'll have to maintain his velocity, execute his game plan and command his slider and curveball. He can't just rely on his fastball and his terrific changeup.
"Today, there's not as [many] things to look at as much as getting his feet wet in the spring, but over time the definition of the starter is going to be able to have his full repertoire to last deep into the games and factor deep into the rotation," Hinch said.
Considering the uncertainty with the starting staff's health and the ability of Brad Peacock and Michael Feliz to start or pitch in relief, Hinch said the team might not make a decision on Devenski's path until mid-March.
"That's when guys are getting through three or four innings," he said. "When you get to four-plus innings, that's starter material and it gets a little more difficult to have guys bounce back."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.