Verlander set to make home debut Sunday

Verlander set to make home debut Sunday

ANAHEIM -- Astros pitcher Justin Verlander is scheduled to make his Minute Maid Park debut on Sunday against the Mariners. Astros manager A.J. Hinch laid out the rotation for the weekend series on Wednesday, saying Charlie Morton will start Friday and Dallas Keuchel on Saturday.

All three pitchers will fly to Houston on Thursday ahead of the team, which isn't scheduled to land in Houston until 7:30 a.m. CT Friday following a night game Thursday in Anaheim.

Verlander, acquired from the Tigers in a trade two weeks ago, is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14 innings in his first two starts with the Astros, both of which came on the road. The only other Astros pitcher to win his first two starts with at least 16 strikeouts and an ERA as low as Verlander's in his first two starts with the club is Collin McHugh, who went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA and 19 strikeouts in his Houston debut in 2014.

Worth noting

• It's unclear when Lance McCullers Jr. will return to the rotation, Hinch said. McCullers, who came off the disabled list a week ago in Seattle in his first start in more than month, was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Angels with arm fatigue. Mike Fiers started in his place.

"I won't know until he gets off the mound," Hinch said. "He came in my office [Tuesday] and complained of some soreness, which prompted the removing him from today's start. He'll have to go through some tests. The doctors will see him and we'll have him throw a bullpen. We don't have a spot open to start again until the White Sox series (Sept. 19-21). There's really no rush to this until after the off day [Monday]. We'll see how he feels in the next four, five, six days. Nothing is going to happen before then."

• Veteran Carlos Beltran will likely be limited to the designated hitter role against right-handers the rest of the season, Hinch said. The switch-hitter has struggled at the plate this year and is hitting .247 against right-handers and .191 against lefties entering play Wednesday.

Beltran is hitting .118 with one RBI and a .220 on-base percentage in his last 51 plate appearances (since Aug. 17). He hit .210 in August and is batting .167 in September.

"We need him to get going a little bit," Hinch said. "He's a good hitter who can do a lot of different things against different styles of pitchers. … I don't anticipate him playing any outfield. The days he doesn't play, he'll be a pinch-hit bat for us. The days that he does, it will be mostly against right-handed pitching."

• Catcher Juan Centeno, who's been dealing with a mild concussion, won't be available until this weekend's series against the Mariners at the earliest, Hinch said.

• McHugh threw a "soft, light little bullpen" on Wednesday, Hinch said, and "spun the ball pretty well." He could be used in relief this weekend against the Mariners, but he's not yet scheduled to be plugged back into the rotation.

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