Hinch aims to carry 13 pitchers into season

Hinch aims to carry 13 pitchers into season

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The strong showings at the plate this spring by first baseman A.J. Reed and infielders Colin Moran, Tony Kemp and Tyler White are positive signs for the Astros, but the club's desire to carry 13 pitchers into the regular season means that they're all likely to begin the season at Triple-A Fresno.

The Astros will almost certainly have 13 pitchers, which leaves 12 spots for position players: catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, infielders Yulieski Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez, outfielders George Springer, Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Jake Marisnick and designated hitter/outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday that Reed -- who entered the week hitting .360 with four homers and 10 RBIs -- could "make things interesting," but it is clear the team is committed to Gurriel starting at first base this year.

Reed's go-ahead grand slam

"Our position-player group is tough to crack," Hinch said. "We're going to most likely carry 13 pitchers, and if we do that, it makes the last bench spot very difficult to make. The 13th pitcher versus extra position player will be debated over the next few weeks with White, Kemp, Reed, Teoscar Hernandez, Moran -- guys that all have more service time and have put themselves in good positions."

The Astros had 13 pitchers almost all of last season, and Hinch would prefer having that many again considering three of their starting pitchers -- Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton -- are coming of injuries. What's more, starting pitcher Collin McHugh is recovering from "dead arm" and will face live hitters for the first time on Tuesday.

"We gauge [roster construction] on pitching first," Hinch said.

At this point, Joe Musgrove appears headed for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Keuchel, McCullers, Morton and McHugh. Mike Fiers could join Chris Devenski in the 'pen as long relievers. Ken Giles, Will Harris, Luke Gregerson and Tony Sipp are locks in the bullpen with James Hoyt, Jandel Gustave and Michael Feliz battling for two spots.

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.