Astros starters laying strong spring foundation

Astros starters laying strong spring foundation

VIERA, Fla. -- Some of the names may be different, but the results have been the same -- or perhaps even better -- for Astros hurlers so far this spring.

Houston starters entered Monday having combined to post a 2.51 ERA through the first 12 games of Spring Training. The group includes righties Doug Fister, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, Mike Fiers and Brad Peacock, along with lefties Wandy Rodriguez and Dallas Keuchel.

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The group has led an Astros pitching staff that entered Monday with a 3.26 ERA that ranks second in the Majors, trailing only Tampa Bay (3.24). Houston's pitching staff led the American League with a 3.57 ERA in 2015, with the starting staff ranking second in the AL with a 3.71 ERA.

"It's a strength of ours," manager A.J. Hinch said. "It was a strength of ours last year. We logged as many innings as nearly anyone in the league last year, both in quality and quantity. Obviously, we need to stay healthy to maintain that."

But Hinch said he believes the staff is further along than last year's group.

"We're stronger at this point this year than we were at this point last year," he said. "Lance McCullers wasn't in our camp last year. We weren't talking about guys like Feldman and Fister in the fourth- and fifth-starter spot.

"Fiers wasn't here last year. So some names have changed but the quality has been enhanced. We feel like when we put a guy out there, if we can stay intact, we're going to have a chance to win every night. That's important when you have that kind of starting-pitching depth."

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.