Battle for final rotation spot heating up

Battle for final rotation spot heating up

Battle for final rotation spot heating up
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The competition for the fifth spot in the Astros' starting rotation continued to develop on two fronts Thursday.

Left-hander Zach Duke started against the Blue Jays at Osceola County Stadium. He gave up four runs in his first two innings, but also pitched out of a second-and-third-no-outs jam in the fourth while striking out five.

Meanwhile, at the Minor League complex, right-hander Jordan Lyles pitched five scoreless innings of a Triple-A game against the Nationals, allowing just two hits while walking one and striking out seven.

Manager Brad Mills said there was no significance to who pitched where.

"The guys we send over [to the complex] are going to get plenty of opportunities in the big league game," Mills said.

The other pitcher in the mix, right-hander Kyle Weiland, hasn't allowed a run in eight innings pitched this spring.

Lyles was most happy with the progression of his curveball, which he said he threw more than he ever has in a game before.

"I'm really excited about this curveball going forward. That's what I've been waiting for. I really haven't had a fourth pitch like that to go to," Lyles said.

"That fourth pitch I can go to is just a confidence-builder. I know that's what they've been waiting for. It's what we've been practicing. I think people are excited. I'm excited. I think it's the next step forward and it's going to be crucial for me."

Duke said he'll focus on the pluses that came from his outing.

"I tend to look at the positive and try to forget the negative stuff. I'm going to look at the fact that, obviously, I'm doing something better than I've done in the past, since I had five strikeouts. So I feel like my stuff is coming along. Now it's just a matter of getting the consistency for each inning," Duke said.

"Obviously, the results weren't great. "A little mixed. There were times I felt very good about it, other times where I feel like I maybe could have done a little better. It's certainly not for lack of effort."