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Depth gives Astros Minors pitching puzzle to solve

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With the Astros having added significantly to their starting pitching depth in the offseason, general manager Jeff Luhnow said the club might get creative in how it uses starting pitchers in the upper levels of the Minor Leagues when the season starts.

The Astros, who have 16 starting pitchers in camp, could use tandem starters at the beginning of the season in Triple-A and Double-A, meaning two starters could pitch in the same game. One would start the game and be followed by the other, giving everyone a chance to get innings.

"We're going to have to get creative about how we utilize the pitchers at the top two levels or players are going to have to repeat a level they might not otherwise have to," Luhnow said. "I'd rather have this problem than what we faced last year, which was giving innings at Double-A and Triple-A to players that weren't a part of our future."

Luhnow used tandem starting pitchers while he was farm director in St. Louis.

"It worked well at the beginning of the year to give everybody innings," he said. "There's some separation that usually occurs after the first month or so. It's something we're going to discuss. It's not ideal because players aren't used to it and they don't get the traditional wins or losses like they would for a normal starter, but they do end up getting roughly the same number of innings."

If the Astros open the season with a rotation of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, Philip Humber and Erik Bedard, they could have Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, John Ely, Alex White, Jose Ciserno, Ross Seaton and Brett Oberholtzer competing for innings at Triple-A.

"I like the way we went out and got some veteran free-agent guys and have some guys coming through the system," Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco said.

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