Harrell draws opener as rotation battle begins

Harrell draws opener as rotation battle begins

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The competition for the starting rotation gets underway in earnest when right-hander Lucas Harrell starts for the Astros against the Braves in Friday's Grapefruit League opener in Lake Buena Vista. Harrell is one of 14 starting pitchers in camp competing for only a couple of spots.

Scott Feldman has one spot locked up, and Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock and Brett Oberholtzer are among the favorites to join him in the rotation. On Monday, manager Bo Porter said Dallas Keuchel had a strong leg up on a rotation spot because of his experience.

That means pitchers such as Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Harrell, David Martinez, Collin McHugh, Alex White and Jerome Williams will have to pitch their way into the rotation, or make the club as a reliever.

Porter plans to allow all the pitchers to get enough innings to show what they can do.

"The good thing is we have a lengthy schedule here, as far as the Spring Training schedule, and we also have some 'B' squad games we'll play, realizing we have a number of guys competing for spots," Porter said. "It will give us enough innings to go around, in order to be able to get a clear indication, given the competition at those positions."

Porter said the pitchers who start games the first time through the rotation this spring, such as Harrell, will likely have to follow another starter when their turn to throw comes up again.

"We'll probably flip-flop some guys the next time through just to give that guy an opportunity to start and the other guy will come behind," Porter said. "More important, we want to make sure those guys get innings."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.