Astros looking to find role for Devenski in '17

Right-hander could be rotation candidate or stay in long relief

Astros looking to find role for Devenski in '17

HOUSTON -- For a guy who didn't make the Opening Day roster last season, rookie right-hander Chris Devenski had a bigger impact than anyone could have imagined. Now, the Astros have to determine the best way to use him going forward.

As the Astros look ahead to 2017, they plan to give Devenski a look in the rotation this spring, while remaining open to keeping him in long relief, where he was valuable last season.

Manager A.J. Hinch said during the Winter Meetings that the club plans to stretch Devenski out as a starter in Spring Training. Hinch said the Astros want Devenski stretched out to at least four innings before making a decision about his future.

"He's got a history as a starter in the Minors," Hinch said. "He started a couple games for us last year early because we wanted him in the rotation, later because of an emergency doubleheader scenario. So I think he's capable of doing just about anything that we ask. Early in the season, we broke him in as more of a long reliever. He didn't get a lot of leverage innings."

Devenski, 26, wound up going 4-4 with a 2.16 ERA in 48 games, including five starts, four of which came in May with mixed results. The emergence of his changeup made him a weapon in the bullpen as the season progressed.

Devenski set the club record for a rookie reliever in both ERA (1.61) and WHIP (0.81) en route to finishing fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

"By the end of the year, I was using him what felt like every day in September," Hinch said. "It's valuable to have a guy that you could say could be one of your better starters or you could put him in the bullpen and pitch some swing-man innings that turn into being more and more popular in these sixth and seventh and eighth innings that are going to high end, high quality pitchers."

The Astros have starting rotation depth with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove and newcomer Charlie Morton, so it might be hard to find a spot for Devenski. The club is trying to add another arm, too.

"We're going to keep our options open there," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "A.J. and I have been talking about it. I think Devenski will come to Spring Training and prepare as a starter and start to build out. We don't have to make a decision even halfway through Spring Training, as long as he's able to go multiple innings and we can look at it throughout Spring Training and see how everything's going, and see what else we have to make a decision. Devenski's going to have value for us one way or another."

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.