McHugh in line to start Astros' Grapefruit League opener

McHugh in line to start Astros' Grapefruit League opener

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With the Astros' Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies set for Thursday, manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday it's "trending towards" right-hander Collin McHugh starting the game on the mound for the Astros. Cliff Lee is set to start for Philadelphia.

"We have live BP set for the next two days where everybody will get another round of facing hitters," Hinch said. "McHugh's got another live BP, which is why I hesitate putting it in pen."

Outlook: McHugh, SP, HOU

Whoever starts the first game of the spring will have little bearing on who starts for the Astros on Opening Day against the Indians next month in Houston. Scott Feldman, last year's Opening Day starter, is the likely favorite to start that game again, though McHugh and Dallas Keuchel are in the mix.

"That's a long time away," Hinch said. "When we get to the off-day on the 18th, we'll start to shape a little bit of what the rotation is going to look like."

Hinch would like to use the March 18 open date as a gauge for more than just his starting rotation, saying the last week of the spring schedule should provide a good look at who is going to fill which roles throughout the roster.

"I'm circling that mid-camp being a little bit of a status check on [how] this team looks, where our guys are fitting in comfortably," Hinch said. "That last week of games, I really do believe in it being a sort of ramp into the season, game-like situations where you have your bullpens traveling, they're going to the games, they're sort of sticking around for the ninth inning."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.