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Sipp's struggles may cost him Astros roster spot

Hinch considering carrying all right-handers in bullpen; first-base job still up for grabs
MLB.com @basebollie

JUPITER, Fla. -- It was expected for much of Spring Training that left-hander Tony Sipp would earn the final spot in manager A.J. Hinch's bullpen. Granted, if he does make the Astros' Opening Day roster, he would be the lone southpaw reliever.

However, Sipp's struggles throughout spring could have Houston's skipper considering other plans.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- It was expected for much of Spring Training that left-hander Tony Sipp would earn the final spot in manager A.J. Hinch's bullpen. Granted, if he does make the Astros' Opening Day roster, he would be the lone southpaw reliever.

However, Sipp's struggles throughout spring could have Houston's skipper considering other plans.

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Sipp has given up four runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings in Spring Training. The 34-year-old's 6.35 spring ERA -- and four strikeouts in six appearances -- haven't done him any favors in locking down a relief role. And Hinch seemed open to the idea of carrying eight right-handed pitchers in his bullpen when speaking prior to Satuday's contest against the Marlins.

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"I've been pretty consistent saying that we want Tony Sipp to be a part of this, and we want him to get back to his effectiveness he's had not too long ago," Hinch said. "But if the situation comes up to where we feel like it's a better option for us to have other guys -- right now current internal options are all right-handed, so it's not ideal -- it would be somewhat unusual, just given how teams like to put their [clubs] together, but I guess that's an option."

Sipp has a history of being a more-than-capable option for the Astros. In his first season with Houston (2014), he recorded a 3.38 ERA in 50 2/3 innings. The next year, he posted a 1.99 ERA in 54 1/3 frames. But over the past two seasons, the veteran has a 5.33 ERA in 81 innings.

"We haven't seen the consistency quite yet, but we do have trust in him because he's done it before and has been really good," Hinch said. "We aren't going to ride the wave of the stock market, so to speak, but we are constantly trying to untap the good version of him."

The Astros have Ken Giles penciled in as their closer. Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and Brad Peacock are all going to find spots in Hinch's 'pen, as will Collin McHugh, who is set to throw in long relief. All are right-handed.

Right-handers James Hoyt and Francis Martes could conceivably beat out Sipp, though neither has had a standout spring. Sipp fares similarly against lefties and righties -- and Devenski has held left-handers to a .178 batting average for his career -- so it's not out of the question if the Astros decide to roll into Opening Day with all right-handers.

Video: HOU@NYY: Davis opens the scoring with a solo homer

Davis, Reed, White still battling for first-base job

First basemen J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed and Tyler White continue to play their way into an Opening Day roster spot made available by Yuli Gurriel's hand injury.

Davis, whom Hinch said will play some more outfield this coming week, hit his third homer of Spring Training on Friday night against the Yankees and is batting .350/.395/1.045 overall. His ability to play some outfield could possibly increase his chances of making the team.

Reed is hitting .289/.360/.849 with two homers, while White is batting .250/.395/.927 with a pair of big flies as well.

Up next

Right-hander Gerrit Cole gets the ball against left-hander Scott Kazmir and the Braves on Sunday in a 12:05 p.m. CT game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, live on MLB.TV.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Houston Astros, Tony Sipp