KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday it's likely the club will open the season with a seven-man bullpen, which is not a surprise. It's possible they'll use one of those spots on a long reliever, which means Alex White, Samuel Deduno, Jake Buchanan, Dan Straily, Brad Peacock and Asher Wojciechowski will be considered for the bullpen as well as the fifth spot in the rotation. Whoever doesn't make the club could potentially be stretched out for the Triple-A rotation.
Five spots in the bullpen already appear to be locked up, with Chad Qualls, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Josh Fields and lefty Tony Sipp. If the Astros carry a second lefty -- Kevin Chapman, Darin Downs or Joe Thatcher -- they'll have one bullpen spot remaining.
"We're preaching multiple innings," Hinch said. "It's important when you have a seven-man bullpen, you have guys who can get four, five or six outs if needed and be a bridge to the rest of the bullpen. We're going to try to get all of those guys a four-out outing at some point during the spring."
The Astros have mapped out their pitching schedules for the start of Grapefruit League action. Collin McHugh has been named the starter for Thursday's game against the Phillies, and Mark Appel will follow. Thatcher, Wojciechowski, Brady Rodgers, Jordan Jankowski and Jake Buchanan are also scheduled to pitch, with James Hoyt and Jason Stoffel as backups.
On Friday against the Cardinals, Brett Oberholtzer will start and be followed by Deduno, White, Will Harris, Downs, Chapman and Stoffel. The relievers with spots secure -- Gregerson, Qualls, Fields and Sipp -- won't throw until Saturday against the Yankees.
"You want to try to get a look at everybody in the first week of games," Hinch said. "It's not that hard to do. We invited a smaller number of pitchers , and there's plenty of opportunity. Certainly, the guys that are competing for jobs, we're going to get out here early and often. Some of the more established guys are going to have a couple of days off before they pitch. … We want to get that first outing out of the way, and we're always continuing to evaluate how often we want to get these guys off the mound."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com 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.