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McHugh wins arb case; to compete for rotation

Righty will make $5 million this season; Rondon doesn't see WS hangover; title run honored at HOF
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the second year in a row, right-hander Collin McHugh won his arbitration case against the Astros. McHugh, who had his hearing in Phoenix on Tuesday, found out Thursday afternoon the arbitration panel had ruled in his favor. He will make $5 million this year; the Astros were offering $4.55 million.

"It's not always a comfortable process," McHugh said Thursday prior to finding out the results of his hearing. "That's kind of built into the idea of it, but it's an important privilege that players have negotiated, and I feel honored to be able to go through it as a second-year [arbitration] player."

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the second year in a row, right-hander Collin McHugh won his arbitration case against the Astros. McHugh, who had his hearing in Phoenix on Tuesday, found out Thursday afternoon the arbitration panel had ruled in his favor. He will make $5 million this year; the Astros were offering $4.55 million.

"It's not always a comfortable process," McHugh said Thursday prior to finding out the results of his hearing. "That's kind of built into the idea of it, but it's an important privilege that players have negotiated, and I feel honored to be able to go through it as a second-year [arbitration] player."

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McHugh, 30, went 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 starts for the Astros last year after missing the first 3 1/2 months of the season with an elbow injury. He won 19 games in 2015 and has a career 48-28 record with a 3.70 ERA in his four seasons with Houston.

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Even after the Astros traded for Justin Verlander in August and Gerrit Cole in January, McHugh said Thursday he's planning to be stretched out as a starter this spring and compete for a rotation spot. Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton are rotation locks, so the Astros may look to trade McHugh.

"I've talked to the coaching staff a little bit and they're going to stretch me out as a starter," he said. "I've always been a starter in my career. I don't see any reason to prepare any differently. We'll make decisions when we have to. I don't see any reason to prepare any differently. We'll move forward if that's not a possibility, but I'm preparing to start for this baseball team."

Rondon doesn't see World Series hangover for Astros

Relief pitcher Hector Rondon knows all about trying to defend a World Series championship. Rondon was on the Cubs when they won the World Series in 2016 and had a front-row seat when Chicago stumbled out of the gate last year.

The Cubs were under .500 at the All-Star break last year (43-45) before going 49-25 in the second half to win the National League Central crown. They were bounced from the playoffs in the National League Championship Series by the Dodgers, who lost to the Astros in the World Series.

"First month over there, we tried to be too fine sometimes, and the first month for us last year was a little bit rough," Rondon said. "In the second half, we started full effort and everything started working better. For us in here, it's going to be different."

Rondon said he could already sense the Astros have a better mindset coming off their championship.

"I feel like right now we don't feel that hangover here," he said. "I know the Cubs, we felt it a little. We felt too comfortable. Here, these guys are ready, and I'm ready to compete. This year is a new year and we'll try to win it again, and I think that's the goal for us."

Rondon will happily watch his new teammates get their World Series rings in April. He keeps his 2016 Cubs ring at home, breaking it out occasionally.

"I used it a couple of times, but I don't like to use it a lot," he said.

Astros' title run to be commemorated in Cooperstown

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will honor the 2017 World Series champion Astros as part of the permanent Autumn Glory exhibit, beginning Friday in Cooperstown, N.Y. It features artifacts, photographs and ephemera detailing the Astros' first World Series title.

Among the items in the exhibit are Alex Bregman's glove, the orange road jersey worn by Francisco Liriano in Game 7 of the World Series, the cap worn by Game 7-winning pitcher Morton, Verlander's Game 6 jersey, a ball used in Game 7, the helmet worn by Derek Fisher when he scored the winning run in Game 5 and the on-deck circle bat weight used by the Astros throughout the World Series.

Visitors to the museum can celebrate the 2017 World Series by attending a special guided tour -- included with museum admission -- at 11 a.m. ET on Feb. 23. The Hall of Fame will play host to Astros Weekend from Aug. 4-5, with the 2017 World Series trophy on display at the museum both days.

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

Houston Astros, Collin McHugh, Hector Rondon