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Porter to open season with five-man rotation

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter said he'll open the season with a five-man rotation despite the surplus of off-days early in the year. The Astros have four off-days in the first three weeks of the season, but Porter said he plans to stick with five starters throughout April.

"I'm a proponent of you take the off-days," he said. "You can't duplicate the intensity we'll have once we get to Minute Maid ballpark. That's not to say that Spring Training, the preparation part of it, isn't difficult, but you can't duplicate that energy. Early in the year, I've always leaned on the side of giving the guys the extra off day, and later in the year if you have to skip a guy, we'll skip a guy at that point."

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Porter also said he won't decide on an Opening Day starting pitcher until later in camp. Right-handers Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell are the two candidates to take the mound on March 31 against the Rangers. Porter said several factors will play into the decision, including who the pitchers will match up against later in the month and where they will pitch (home or road).

Whichever pitcher starts on Opening Day would come back and start at home on April 7, but the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation would take his second start of the season on the road. Both Norris and Harrell were very strong at home last year. Norris led the NL with a 1.71 ERA at home last year, and Harrell ranked fifth with a 2.34 ERA at Minute Maid Park.

"Those are all factors that, from a managerial standpoint, you take those things into consideration," Porter said. "You look at your opponents, you look at your division and you want to have your best guys going against division foes. You want to see your rotation stack up for the long haul where you have your best guys going against your division foes."

The Astros' first 15 games in 2013 and 18 of their first 21 games are against AL West opponents.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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