Nelson Figueroa is The Astros' Fifth Starter

It wasn't just Jordan Lyles getting optioned to Triple-A. It wasn't Hyphen being told he was competing for a bullpen spot. It went all the way back to last season, when Nelson Figueroa won his final two starts of the season, combining for 12 2/3 shutout innings, allowing 12 hits, five walks while striking out 13.

As much as his spring line (14 innings, 17 hits, six earned runs, five walks, seven strikeouts), it was those final two starts of the 2010 season that locked up Figgy's place in this rotation. Figueroa, who will turn 37 on May 18, joins a five-man rotation of 30-somethings and Bud Norris in this latest Astros rebuilding effort.

The really interesting thing here is that Figueroa is scheduled to start on April 6 in Cincinnati. That's the fifth game of the season, but with an off-day Monday, manager Brad Mills could have easily decided to push back his first start until April 10 against Florida.

To me, that means the Astros view Figueroa as more than just a typical fifth starter. They want him out there instead of trying to get Brett Myers an extra start here or there. The Astros also set the order of the rest of the rotation, going with Myers as the No. 1, Wandy as the No. 2 (assuming he's healthy), Happ as the No. 3 and Budly as No. 4. That puts Wandy up against Cliff Lee and Happ against Roy Oswalt in Games 2 and 3 of the regular season. Isn't that fun?

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