McCullers' return means 6-man rotation for near term

Right-hander set to start Friday against Red Sox

McCullers' return means 6-man rotation for near term

HOUSTON -- With right-hander Lance McCullers set to make his first start of the season on Friday in Boston, the Astros will use a modified six-man rotation for the next couple of weeks, manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday. That means rookie right-hander Chris Devenski will get another start Sunday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Hinch said Dallas Keuchel, and perhaps Collin McHugh, will continue to work on normal rest, but keeping six starters in a line with off-days approaching isn't viable. That being said, Keuchel will start Thursday's series opener in Boston, followed by McCullers on Friday, McHugh on Saturday and Devenski on Sunday.

Mike Fiers, who would have been in line to pitch Saturday, will be pushed back. Astros starters entered Wednesday with six consecutive quality starts, posting a 2.25 ERA in that span, so taking someone out of the rotation for McCullers would have been difficult.

"We're going to use six starters for the next 10 to 12 days, but it's a double-edged sword here where you get guys rest and almost break their routines and break their rhythm," Hinch said. "Keuchel's going to pitch on regular rest quite often. McHugh's going to get an extra day this time. He might not need an extra day the next time.

"There's a method to what we're doing. It's not simply going to be six guys in a row, six guys in a row. … A six-man rotation turns into a seven-man rotation when you throw in an off-day, and we have two off-days the next two weeks. That's not comfortable for these guys to pitch on eight and nine and 10 days of rest."

McCullers, who went 6-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts as a rookie last year, will be making his season debut when he faces the Red Sox on Friday in his first action since last year's American League Division Series. He suffered a sore shoulder in the spring and has been brought along slowly.

"I really didn't know when I was going to go, if I was going to go this weekend in Boston," McCullers said. "I told A.J. whenever he was ready that I was ready, too, so I'm excited."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.