Astros pencil Paulino in for Saturday

Astros pencil Paulino in for Saturday

HOUSTON -- Manager Cecil Cooper announced Thursday that Felipe Paulino will be back in the Astros' rotation and take the mound Saturday against the Tigers.

Houston had listed its Saturday starter as to be determined. Paulino threw a simulated game at Minute Maid Park prior to the Astros' finale with the Royals on Thursday, and the right-hander said afterward that he was pain free and ready to go.

Cooper said that the decision to go with the righty in the second game of Houston's final Interleague series of the season isn't completely set in stone, but barring any unforeseen discomfort in his strained right groin, Paulino will make his first start in nearly three weeks.

"It could change at any moment, but right now it's Paulino and that's the plan," Cooper said. "He's been fine, but until he is activated and goes out there, it's always subject to change, but he feels good to this point."

Paulino was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 11 after he was forced to leave his start four days earlier in the middle of the second inning, having thrown just 34 pitches.

Cooper said the only other option the Astros would have for a starter on Saturday would be Brandon Backe.

Backe made his first and only start of the season against the Rangers last week, taking the rotation spot of Mike Hampton, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained groin. Backe gave up four hits and three runs in four innings in Arlington, and he was forced to leave the game with a finger blister.

"We have to save someone in case we need a long man," Cooper said. "We don't know what's going to happen with Paulino. He may go out and throw two innings and give us 80 pitches and force us to go another direction, so we'll have to save a long guy and Brandon will be that guy."

Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.