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Verlander to pitch Friday instead of Morton

Hinch cites off-days for wanting to keep ace on regular rest
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

OAKLAND -- In an effort to keep veteran right-hander Justin Verlander on regular rest as much as possible, the Astros are tweaking their rotation for the first time this season. Astros manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday that Verlander would start Friday's series opener against the Rangers instead of Charlie Morton, who will be pushed back one day and start Saturday. Dallas Keuchel will start Sunday's game.

"The reason we're doing it is we have a number of off-days over the next couple of weeks, and we're trying not to disrupt too many regular starts for J.V.," he said. "He's a very routine-based guy, and we want him to continue that on."

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OAKLAND -- In an effort to keep veteran right-hander Justin Verlander on regular rest as much as possible, the Astros are tweaking their rotation for the first time this season. Astros manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday that Verlander would start Friday's series opener against the Rangers instead of Charlie Morton, who will be pushed back one day and start Saturday. Dallas Keuchel will start Sunday's game.

"The reason we're doing it is we have a number of off-days over the next couple of weeks, and we're trying not to disrupt too many regular starts for J.V.," he said. "He's a very routine-based guy, and we want him to continue that on."

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With more off-days built into the schedule this year, Houston will be challenged to keep its pitchers on regular rest. The Astros have two off-days in a five-day span next week -- before and after next weekend's three-game series against the Indians in Houston.

"When you look at the schedule, every team has this sort of three or four off-days in the span of a couple of weeks, and different teams are going to navigate it differently," Hinch said. "We started talking about it 10 days or so ago when we knew this was coming. We map it out the best we can. Also, with Charlie and maybe even Lance McCullers Jr., giving extra rest here and there is something we targeted at the beginning of the season.

"This helps Charlie have an extra day, and maybe get an extra throwing session in and keeps J.V. on regular rest for the next two turns, and we'll deal with the next couple of off-days later."

Astros' Honorary Bat Girl

Fran Linton, a breast cancer survivor who has helped raise money and awareness to help fight the disease, has been named the Honorary Bat Girl in support of Major League Baseball's "Going To Bat Against Cancer" initiative, which is traditionally commemorated each Mother's Day.

For the first time since the Honorary Bat Girl program's started in 2009, teams had the opportunity to hand-select their honoree, each of whom has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to battling breast cancer. Each Honorary Bat Girl will represent their team and receive pink MLB merchandise. Linton will be recognized during a pregame ceremony Sunday.

Louisville Slugger will donate proceeds from the sale of their pink bats, which will be stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo, to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer. MLB will again donate its licensed uniform royalties through Mother's Day apparel to Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer.

Linton's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1950s and was the "human test" for all the new breast cancer drugs at Baylor College of Medicine in the '60s. She died in 1967, but her legacy of strength helped Linton get through the disease when she was diagnosed in '96.

"I made it through my treatments determined to live through this disease," she wrote.

After moving to Kingwood, Texas, in 1994, Linton joined the Kingwood Women's Club, which provided an initial donation of $5,000 to start "Project Mammogram" to assist uninsured women who could not afford mammograms.

The program grew to serve women and some men with more than 650 mammogram and diagnostic services annually. Since 2001, Kingwood Women's Club has continued to donate to Project Mammogram, providing more than $300,000 to date. Since 2003, Susan G. Komen, Houston has provided grants totaling more than $1.4 million, and the program has been honored as being one of the most successful "outreach mammogram agencies" which provides free mammograms and related diagnostic services.

In 2011, the founding director, Joyce White, was honored by Susan G. Komen, Houston as "Best Director in the Houston Area." And in 2013, under the direction of current director, Toni Schau, Project Mammogram was honored as "Best Program in the Houston Area."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander