Spring training 2014: Astros rotation coming into focus

Kevin C. Cox

Monday brought the spring's first starter and a pecking order for Houston's rotation.

Articles by Evan Drellich and Brian McTaggart on Monday addressed the team's rotation. In Drellich's piece, pitching coach Brent Strom acknowledged that there are "favorites" to make the rotation and guys who are on the outside looking in. The term he used was their "core pitching rotation." Well, let's just go to the quotes:

"As I told the group," Strom said, "not all pitchers are created equal in this camp. There are some priority people. It's not a case where everybody's going to get an equal amount of innings. I will try and get some people in some situations.

"I got to build up the (Scott) Feldmans, of course. And the (Brad) Peacocks and the Harrells and all those people. (Brett) Oberholtzer, all these guys that are basically our core rotation. And then I'll look at the secondary group of guys and try to get them bona fide innings and see how they fare. Because, as you know, the season's going to (more than) just five starters. Before it's all done, there's going to be 10 guys."

Brian McTaggart talked about the same thing in his Monday blog post, naming the following as part of the rotational mix:

Scott Feldman has a spot locked up, and Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock and Brett Oberholtzer are among the favorites to join him in the rotation. On Monday, manager Bo Porter said Dallas Keuchel had a strong leg up on a rotation spot because of his experience.

That means pitchers such as Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Lucas Harrell, David Martinez, Collin McHugh, Alex White and Jerome Williams will have to pitch their way into the rotation, or make the club as a reliever.

Let's assume Feldman is the Opening Day starter right now. Round out that group with Brad Peacock, Lucas Harrell and Brett Oberholtzer. That leaves Jarred Cosart, Dallas Keuchel, Jerome Williams and Alex White as great candidates who may be fighting for just one rotational spot.

The unexpected name there may be Williams. We all assumed he was signing with Houston so he could be part of the rotation. But, if he's on the outside looking in, could he be cut before spring training is over? Traded to another club? I doubt he heads to the bullpen, since he was so dead-set on starting and not being in a swing-man role.

Harrell may be the most surprising name on the lock list mentioned by Strom. But, he's a sinker guy and this team seems more and more on a path to focus on shifts and ground ball pitchers. He wasn't plucked off waivers by Luhnow, but he did have an excellent season two years ago. Maybe 2013 was an aberration? I bet Houston tries to find out before discarding him.

None of this is surprising. For all the talk of competition in spring, most of the roster is probably decided. There is always room for someone to jump up and perform better than expectations, but smart teams don't rely just on spring success to set an Opening Day roster.

Who's your rotation right now? Which guy could fall out of it? Who's the biggest surprise on the outside looking in?

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