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Musgrove to 'pen makes Martes more versatile

MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- With the Astros' starting rotation inching closer to full strength, the Astros moved Joe Musgrove to the bullpen, which manager A.J. Hinch believes will allow Francis Martes to be used more strategically.

"Yeah, I consider Martes a real weapon," Hinch said. "The way that our bullpen is constructed now with Musgrove down there, he can cover a little bit more of the length and might free up Martes to be used a little more randomly, just not a defined role."

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BALTIMORE -- With the Astros' starting rotation inching closer to full strength, the Astros moved Joe Musgrove to the bullpen, which manager A.J. Hinch believes will allow Francis Martes to be used more strategically.

"Yeah, I consider Martes a real weapon," Hinch said. "The way that our bullpen is constructed now with Musgrove down there, he can cover a little bit more of the length and might free up Martes to be used a little more randomly, just not a defined role."

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Musgrove has made 15 starts this season, but made the move to the bullpen to open a spot for Collin McHugh in the rotation Saturday against the Orioles after being activated from the disabled list. With a starter's arm in the bullpen, Musgrove will take the majority of the long-relief duties, freeing Martes -- who has been used for at least two innings in three of his five relief appearances this year -- to have a more versatile role.

"Yes, but not always," Hinch said about Musgrove being the true long man. "It's just more I can use Martes whenever we want because I have some innings covered. I'll give you a good example: When you're down one going into the bottom of the eighth, you don't want to use your long man. I can do that with Musgrove and Martes. Here I can throw Martes for an inning against the middle of the order, against [Manny] Machado, against [Jonathan] Schoop, against [Chris] Davis, and if we tie the game or go ahead in the game, I don't lose the ability to go deeper into an extra-inning game. It's a little insurance."

Both Musgrove and Martes have spent the majority of their professional baseball career -- both in the Majors and Minors -- as starting pitchers. Musgrove made one big league relief appearance in 2016, while Martes has split his 2017 season as both a reliever and a starter. In his first five relief appearances this season, Martes threw a total of 10 2/3 innings.

"I've seen him in three or four reliever outings now and he's been really good," Hinch said. "Especially the last couple with all the strikeouts and the low walks and the low hits. You know, I could see him being used a little differently. I do have some protection [now] from a length standpoint."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Saturday.

Houston Astros, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove