Core starters may rest more in Spring Training

Keuchel, McHugh and McCullers all coming off career highs in innings

Core starters may rest more in Spring Training

HOUSTON -- With the nucleus of his starting pitching rotation all coming off career-high innings-pitched totals, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday the team will look into scaling back the workload of some of its key arms during Spring Training.

Lefty Dallas Keuchel (232 innings), the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, and right-handers Collin McHugh (203 2/3) and Lance McCullers (157 2/3 combined between Minors and Majors) are coming off substantial workloads in 2015, something Hinch said will be a factor this spring.

"We've got to be strategic in how quickly we get these guys fired up and into games and how many innings they're going to pitch," Hinch said. "But the preparation is very similar. I'm going to be mostly fixated on the mindset we go out and get better."

Keuchel threw only 15 innings in games last spring and McHugh threw 20 1/3, but how the pitchers prepare between spring starts is also a factor. McCullers wasn't in Major League camp last year, and at 22 years old he doesn't have much wear and tear on his arm.

Keuchel, McHugh and McCullers, barring injury, are locks to make the rotation, with veteran Scott Feldman in line to take a spot if he's healthy following a right shoulder sprain. Brad Peacock, coming off back surgery, will also factor into the competition, Hinch said, along with Mike Fiers and Dan Straily.

If Feldman -- who's in the final year of a three-year, $30 million deal -- is healthy, it will make the rotation competition that much tougher.

"I don't think there's nearly as many openings that are dictated by performance," Hinch said. "I think health is going to be sort of the storyline."

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