All things considered, Felipe Paulino continues to do a good job in the rotation. With Brandon Backe and Brian Moehler on rehab assignments in the minors, what happens when they are ready for the major league roster? After his first start, I figured that Paulino had a couple of more starts to hold on to his rotation spot.
He didn't win those two starts, but he fared acceptably well. And, looking at the boxscore of Brian Moehler's start in Midland, I assume that he isn't ready yet. Both teams' pitchers were giving up lots of runs, but this line isn't good for a major league pitcher in AA:
5 IP 11 H 8 R 8 ER 0 BB 2 K 14.40 ERA
My guess is that Moehler needs more rehab starts in the minors. But I haven't seen any indications of the Astros' thinking.
Backe appears to be in the early stages of his rehab starts. His start for Round Rock seems pretty decent for a guy just starting to pitch after a layoff.
4 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 1K 2.25 ERA
As things stand right now (including the state of Paulino's performance), when Moehler is ready to return to the big league roster, my preference would be keep Paulino in the rotation and put Moehler in the bullpen. Part of my reasoning is that Paulino is one (if not the only) good young Astros' arms at this level who has the potential to be a good starter. Also, Moehler has more experience in the bullpen than Paulino. The broadcasters speculated on the possibility of Paulino being used as a late inning reliever by the Astros. That talk will always come up when a guy can throw as hard as Paulino. But I'm not sold on Paulino's ability to fill that role. As hard as Paulino throws, he doesn't always get as many Ks as you might expect from an outing. Watching him, it appears to me that he needs to settle in and mix in his breaking pitches before he becomes effective in a game. But he may well end up in a relief role this year.
On the post game show last night, Allyson Footer opined that the Astros will return Moehler to the rotation, in part because of his $2.5 million salary. She also raised the old "nobody loses their job to injury" cliche. First, Moehler's salary should have nothing to do with his role as a reliever or starter. The decision should be based on what's best for the team. As to the second point, I understand that a rationale exists for that "rule." But there are many exceptions to the rule. Otherwise, we wouldn't have the frequent references to Wally Pipp (who lost his job to Lou Gehrig, because he had a headache). Of course, something unexpected could happen, before Moehler's rehab is over, which allows both Paulino and Moheler to start in the rotation.
As for Backe, I assume that decision is farther down the line. But it could get interesting.