That means Lucas Harrell and Henry Sosa, a pair of young right-handers who were originally in the mix for a spot in the rotation, are now being considered for bullpen slots. They haven't been getting as many innings or the starts that the other four have gotten, so Mills' announcement wasn't surprising.
"If they were to show something and light our eyes, they might throw themselves back into that mix, but we're looking at spots in the bullpen as well," Mills said. "If they do something we feel would warrant them to get back into the mix, then we'll put them right back into the mix."
The top three spots in the rotation appear to be set with Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ, and the veteran Hernandez has been getting consistent starts and innings this spring and will likely have a spot. That would leave three pitchers battling for one rotation spot.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow isn't ready to put anything in stone.
"We're still looking at seven guys for five spots," he said. "A couple of the guys we thought might be rotation candidates [Harrell and Sosa] are being looked at more as long men and bullpen candidates. It makes sense, because we have 17 [spring] games left, and we really have to focus on not only figuring out who the last couple of guys are, but also making sure everybody's lined up properly to start the season."
Happ threw 83 pitches in an intrasquad game on Tuesday, and Duke threw 75 pitches.