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McHugh, Miley, Peacock to fill out rotation

@brianmctaggart
March 22, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch finalized his starting rotation to begin the season by announcing Friday that Collin McHugh would start the third game of the season March 30 against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Wade Miley would start the fourth game April 1 against the

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch finalized his starting rotation to begin the season by announcing Friday that Collin McHugh would start the third game of the season March 30 against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Wade Miley would start the fourth game April 1 against the Rays and Brad Peacock would start the fifth game on April 2 in Arlington against the Rangers.

Hinch revealed the order of McHugh and Miley prior to Friday night’s 7-3 win over the Mets at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. He then informed Peacock when he was leaving the mound after throwing 4 1/3 innings against the Mets that he would start the fifth game.

Hinch had already announced that Justin Verlander would take the ball on Opening Day on Thursday, with Gerrit Cole working the second game of the season March 29.

“The advancement of his changeup has been really good,” Hinch said of Peacock. “He’s starting to command the breaking ball below the zone. He’s got a good, sweeping slider. He’s very reliable and he throws strikes, he’s got weapons, he pitches to game plan, he can pitch up. His changeup came on strong this spring, which is a very good pitch for him. We saw a couple of good swings and misses on the lefties.”

Peacock had been competing with Framber Valdez for the final rotation spot. Valdez went two innings in relief of Peacock and was informed by Hinch during the game that his best chance to make the club was going to be as a reliever. That leaves Valdez and fellow lefty Reymin Guduan as the two candidates remaining for the final bullpen spot.

“The picture is starting to be a little bit clearer,” Hinch said. “We’ll have an update in the next couple of days about the last spot.”

Valdez will throw in Monday’s exhibition against the Pirates at Minute Maid Park.

“I told him it’s important for him to embrace this opportunity still,” Hinch said. “Even though he can be disappointed he’s not in the rotation, Peacock pitched very well this spring, and [Valdez's] best chance is still in the ‘pen. There was a time this spring I didn’t think he was going to be a candidate, and clearly he still is.”

Verlander will make his 11th Opening Day start and will face lefty Blake Snell in a battle of the top two finishers in last year’s American League Cy Young Award race, followed by Cole vs. former Astros starter Charlie Morton, McHugh vs. right-hander Tyler Glasnow and Miley vs. a Rays opener.

Pitchers with the most Opening Day starts

Reed optioned to minors
The Astros optioned first baseman AJ Reed to Triple-A Round Rock following Friday’s game, a move that set the 13 position players the team will carry into the season. Reed wasn’t going to make the club anyway, but Hinch wanted to reward him for a solid spring by allowing him to stay until the final weekend of camp.

Reed hit .167 with a .583 OPS this spring with one homer, six RBIs, four walks and 14 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances. He has clubbed 24 homers at Triple-A in each of the past two years, but he hasn’t been able to see that power translate to the big leagues.

“He had his best spring he’s had since I’ve been here and he’s been here,” Hinch said. “I thought his demeanor was really good, I think his swing is cleaned up a little bit. He did a lot of work this winter to try to get his bat angle right. I saw him take some better swings. He’s stuck on a roster that is really hard to make, and he needs to hit in order to get an opportunity.

“Being a first baseman/DH, it’s a lot about the bat. We saw some progress. Things played out exactly how we expected to when we came to camp, which is not his fault. We kept him as long as we could out of respect for what he’s done. He’s certainly outperformed Triple-A and hit a bunch of homers, and he’s got to go down and continue to prove it.”

Here are the Astros’ 13 position players heading into the season: Max Stassi and Robinson Chirinos at catcher, Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Tyler White and Aledmys Diaz on the infield and Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp in the outfield.

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