McCullers starts Saturday as Hinch mulls roster

Outing could set righty up for ALDS rotation if he responds well

McCullers starts Saturday as Hinch mulls roster

ARLINGTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. will make his final start of the regular season Saturday afternoon against the Red Sox. His health and performance will determine how manager A.J. Hinch sets up his rotation for the American League Division Series.

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McCullers has pitched just twice since July 30, including Sunday's game against the Angels, when he gave up two runs and four hits in 3 1/3 innings. That start followed an 18-day layoff because of arm fatigue. McCullers came through his start Sunday feeling great, Hinch said, which sets him up to get one of the Astros' four rotation spots if he responds well again.

Hinch has yet to announce his postseason rotation, but Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel will likely pitch Games 1 and 2 (not necessarily in that order), with Brad Peacock likely to get a start in Game 3 or 4. The final rotation spot comes down to McCullers, Charlie Morton or Collin McHugh. Because they're still chasing the Indians for the best record in the AL, the Astros have not yet announced who will start Sunday's regular-season finale.

Keuchel is in line to pitch Sunday, but Houston will hold him out to avoid possibly facing the Red Sox a few days before a potential postseason rematch. McHugh could start Sunday, or Hinch could patch the game together with relievers if the game carries no playoff significance.

Odds and ends
• Outfielder Josh Reddick was out of the lineup Wednesday for the third game in a row with a sore back. Reddick is likely to return to the lineup for Thursday's game against Boston -- the team that drafted him and promoted him to the big leagues.

"It was a day game [Wednesday] and also a little semblance of the back soreness he's had before," Hinch said. "He's wanted to play, and we're being pretty cautions with him. It's convenient to give him the day off. I want to get Marwin [Gonzalez] in the outfield again because he's going to play a lot of outfield moving forward, getting Tony [Kemp] in the game again. It's tough to sit him, but it's probably the prudent thing to do. He should be back in there tomorrow."

• The Astros, who will host Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS on Oct. 5 and 6 in Houston, have to have their 25-man playoff roster set by Oct. 4, Hinch said. At this point, Hinch only has to determine the final bullpen spot, his third catcher and two of final bench spots.

One of the starters who doesn't make the postseason rotation will be moved to the bullpen to join Ken Giles, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano. Hinch still must settle on Juan Centeno or Max Stassi as the third catcher and choose two from among outfielder Derek Fisher, infielder/outfielder Kemp and infielder Tyler White for the final two position-player spots.

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