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Astros spring training: Ask me anything about Dan Straily's demotion

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What do you want to know about the Astros sending Straily down to the minors?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Astros gave us some clarity on the race for the fifth starter spot. By sending Dan Straily to the minors, the Astros sent the message that it's either Roberto Hernandez' spot to win, or that long-shot Asher Wojciechowski might just have a prayer of making it to the Elite Eight.

Why did Straily get sent down?

Well, his velocity has been down for a while. The Astros have him on a program to build arm strength and regain velocity, but it had dipped in his last few spring starts. Couple that with the new curveball pitching coach Brent Strom wants Straily to learn (which is tied into Effective Velocity) and the right-hander may just need some time before he McHugh's the league.

Wait, Straily lost velocity? Are the Astros dumb for trading for him?

If you talk to Cubs fans, then yes. They thought Straily was garbage and that the Astros got hosed by making him part of the Fowler deal.

But, there could be a reason for that. Straily lost nearly three miles per hour off his fastball from when he debuted for Oakland in 2012 and from what he did between two teams last season. The Astros have a plan for him to gain back that velocity, so he can get back to throwing around 91 mph.

If he can do that, Straily could get back to 2012 levels, when he had 32 strikeouts in 39 innings for Oakland and 82 Ks in 66 Triple-A innings.

Does that mean the Astros lost the Dexter Fowler trade?

Nope. They picked up Luis Valbuena, who is your current starter at third base. Basically, they took a player who will be a free agent at the end of the year and flipped him for a starter at a different position while still adding depth in the outfield.

In other words, the Fowler/Matt Dominguez combo should be trumped by the Valbuena/Colby Rasmus pairing.

Who takes Straily's spot?

Hernandez is in the driver's seat. He's looked good in recent starts and has a more firm track record of success than someone like Wojo. The younger player may have more upside, but could have some growing pains in the big leagues.

So, by focusing on Hernandez early, the Astros could give time for Straily and Brad Peacock to get ready. If Hernandez falls on his face, Houston has two ready options who could replace him.

Remember, the 2014 version of the Astros opened with Lucas Harrell in the rotation while 2013 featured Philip Humber in the top five starter. Let's hope Fauxsto is more like Erik Bedard than either of those two esteemed gentlemen.

But what about Wojo? Could he really win a spot?

All indications are that the Astros want Hernandez to take that fifth spot. Wojo lurks once again as a possibility.

If this sounds familiar, it's because Wojo was in much the same situation last spring, when he was a stealth candidate to step into the rotation. But, an injury sidelined him early in the season and the right-hander struggled to return to form after that.

This year, Wojo is healthy and throwing darts. He also has a very good chance to steal that rotation spot away from Fauxsto, because he's already on the 40-man roster. If the Astros feel the difference between Hernandez and Wojo isn't as great as the talent potentially lost by bumping someone off the 40-man roster, Wojo could take the job.

Still, Wojo is probably on the outside looking in because the Astros have a couple of 40-man spots taken up by player who could be gone at the end of the spring. One of those is outfielder L.J. Hoes. Another is oft-injured pitcher Alex White and a third is Matty D himself, who could get traded as the spring winds down.

Because of all the options to open up a 40-man spot, keeping both lefty Joe Thatcher and Hernandez seems likely. Just don't mark it down in pen just yet.

Are there any other roster implications?

Glad you asked! This move pretty much locks up a spot for Sam Deduno on the 25-man roster. He's pitched well this spring and the Astros love that crazy fastball of his.

He's got a chance to be the best long man the Astros have employed in the past four seasons and could sneak into that rotation should Plans A, B and C fail during April.