Moehler in mix for Astros' rotation spot

Moehler in mix for Astros' rotation spot

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The three candidates in the running for the Astros' fifth starter job are Woody Williams, Jack Cassel and Chris Sampson, but don't count out right-hander Brian Moehler, who may have played his way onto the team.

Moehler is still considered a long shot to make the rotation, but the Astros will probably stretch him out and peg him as a long reliever who could be called upon in case the team needs a spot starter.

"He's making a strong bid to be on our team," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I think at any time we need to, we can stretch him to three or four [innings] if we need to."

Cooper has been impressed with Moehler and Cassel and identified both as candidates for a long relief role in the 'pen. Entering Friday's contest with the Marlins, Moehler has a 3.55 ERA over seven games this spring, and Cassel has 4.85 ERA over five games.

"Both deserve a lot of consideration," Cooper said. "They've put themselves in good position. It'll go down to the wire here."

Williams is slated to pitch on Sunday and again on Friday against the Tigers in Houston. While speaking with reporters Friday morning, Cooper reiterated his prior stance regarding Williams' status.

"I just say it like it is," Cooper said. "We've got to see a pretty good performance out of Woody on Sunday to have an opportunity to really nail it down."

Is Cooper concerned?

"A little bit," he said. "I have not seen crisp location with his breaking ball. We haven't seen a lot of that this spring."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.