Veteran righty Hernandez secures spot in Astros' rotation

Oberholtzer, Wojciechowski in running for one remaining slot on starting staff

Veteran righty Hernandez secures spot in Astros' rotation

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch told veteran right-hander Roberto Hernandez on Monday night that he had made the Major League roster, but that doesn't mean the Houston starting rotation is set just yet.

The club is still monitoring the readiness of left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, who returned to the mound for the first time in nearly three weeks Monday against the Blue Jays and gave up five runs and five hits, including three homers, in 3 1/3 innings.

The results weren't there, but Hinch said the fact that Oberholtzer was able to get stretched out to 71 pitches was a good sign.

Outlook: Oberholtzer, SP, HOU

"The first inning took a lot out of him," Hinch said. "I thought the best inning he had was the last inning, with the sharpness of his pitches. Getting him a high pitch count was important. He got there a little bit differently, but I'm glad he got to 70."

Dallas Keuchel will start Monday's season opener against the Indians, with Scott Feldman slotted into the No. 2 spot in the rotation. Collin McHugh and Hernandez have yet to be slotted into the rotation, Hinch said.

Rookie right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who pitches Tuesday against the Braves, has had a strong spring and would win a spot in the rotation if the Astros decide Oberholtzer isn't ready. Prior to Monday, Oberholtzer hadn't pitched since March 10 because of a minor lat strain and subsequent illness.

Wojciechowski's strong outing

"I've been feeling good for a while now, but it's always good to come out of there healthy," said Oberholtzer, who will pitch Saturday's exhibition against the Royals in Houston.

Wojciechowski is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five games (two starts) this spring, allowing 12 hits and two runs with 13 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.

"There's a couple of different ways Asher could make the team," Hinch said. "We'll assess him after [Tuesday's] outing."

A nine-year Major League veteran, the 34-year-old Hernandez has pitched in 248 games (206 starts) and owns a lifetime 4.60 ERA with the Indians (2006-12), Rays ('13), Phillies ('14) and Dodgers ('14). He'll earn $2.65 million this year on a Major League contract.

"I like the dependability of Roberto, his veteran presence," Hinch said. "He can log some innings. I really like that this spring he's kept the ball on the ground, and he's very reliable. He's a guy who's been on a couple of different teams in a couple of different environments. You know what you're going to get with Roberto. He's stuck around this game a long time because he's a good pitcher."

The pending additions of Hernandez and reliever Joe Thatcher to the 40-man roster means the Astros will have to make corresponding moves.

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.