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Astros spring training news: Asher Wojciechowski, Roberto Hernandez fighting for fifth start spot

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It's a two-man race for the final rotation spot.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With about a little over a week to go until Opening Day, the Astros roster is nearly set. One of the few battles left is who will be the fifth starter. On Thursday, the competition officially narrowed to two candidates, according to Astros manager A.J. Hinch.

Sam Deduno will be your long man in the bullpen. A couple other notes came out of meetings this morning. Reliever Josh Fields is still hurting and may not be ready for Opening Day, while Robbie Grossman is slightly ahead of Jonathan Villar after both suffered injuries in Wednesday's spring game.

Both Wojo and Fauxsto present interesting cases for the fifth spot in the rotation. Wojo brings youth and upside while Hernandez has experience and a little more reliability. He doesn't have the upside to be more than  fourth or fifth starter, but the Astros may be able to rely on him for a 4.00-4.50 ERA pretty consistently.

Either way, this is exactly what a real spring training roster battle should look like. In recent years, the Astros have had such a dearth of qualified major leaguers on the roster that prospects got the fast track to winning spots, whether they earned it or not.

Here, we've got a situation where Hernandez would have the spot if Wojo hadn't pitched so well this spring. Wojo could have debuted last season, but was wrecked by a spring injury. Now, he's gotten things together and is forcing the Astros to keep him in the conversation.

Of course, there's another answer why the Astros haven't made a move yet. If Brett Oberholtzer can't come back from his minor injury, both players could open the season in the rotation.

Also, Houston will have to officially add Hernandez to the 40-man roster if he wins a spot, which means making a roster move or two. That can be put off for another week, so there's no real incentive for Houston to make a decision ahead of time.

As Drellich pointed out this morning, Hernandez is due a $100,000 bonus if he's on the roster five days before Opening Day. That's the real deadline to decide things, not before. We may not see more clarity on things before that.

As for Fields, his injury should be good news for Will Harris, who is on the 40-man roster and still in camp. Harris has pitched well since Houston claimed him on waivers from Arizona over the winter. Unlike another nice relief option like James Hoyt, he wouldn't take a 40-man roster move to break camp with the big league team. Until Fields' health is sorted out, I'd expect that Harris sticks with the team just in case.