CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Hampton returning to six-man rotation

Hampton returning to six-man rotation

SAN DIEGO -- Astros manager Cecil Cooper, who said on Sunday he would never consider using a six-man rotation, had an abrupt change of heart and said Monday he plans to do just that.

Beginning with Mike Hampton's start Tuesday against San Diego, the Astros will use six different starting pitchers in six games, a decision made because Houston is unable to justify removing any of its five starters from the rotation to make room for Hampton, who will come off the disabled list to start for the first time since June 12.

"It's a good problem to have," Cooper said.

More

Brian Moehler will start Wednesday and Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday against San Diego, Felipe Paulino will start Friday against San Francisco, with Russ Ortiz and Roy Oswalt to pitch the final two games of the series against the Giants.

"After that, we'll kind of adjust," Cooper said. "We might end up with six [starters] through the [All-Star] break, we really don't know. That's the plan that's been discussed."

The two most likely candidates to be removed from the rotation are both coming off strong starts. Paulino held Detroit to three hits and one run and struck out nine in seven innings Saturday, and Ortiz gave up six hits and two runs against the Tigers on Sunday.

"You get an extra day, which is not all that bad," Ortiz said. "This last rotation everybody seemed to pitch pretty well. It's one of those things that if we're all doing well and they want to try it, then why not? If that's only going to help, lets' try it out. If it's not going to hurt anybody or do anything to anybody, then we should be totally fine."

The extra day of rest could also benefit veterans Moehler and Ortiz, as well as Paulino and Hampton, both of whom have been on the disabled list this year with groin injuries.

"It makes sense to do that," Cooper said. "Ortiz is coming off surgery, Paulino just came back from the DL and Hampton will be just coming off the DL. He has a history of missing starts anyway, and this is a way to protect him and Paulino a little bit -- and maybe the same for Russ. More than that, it's just difficult, because they've all pitched pretty well."

Houston doesn't have another off-day before the All-Star break, but Astros general manager Ed Wade said one of the starters could be used in the completion of a postponed game against the Washington Nationals scheduled for July 9 at Minute Maid Park.

"And then with the regular-scheduled game against Washington, they're back on their regular day," Wade said.

Even with six capable starting pitchers and prospect Bud Norris pitching great at Triple-A Round Rock, Wade said it's too early to speculate whether the Astros could be in position to trade one of their arms.

"One of the rationales associated with the move is the fact you've got Hampton and Ortiz in the rotation and both of them haven't gone more than 140 innings in five years," Wade said. "Moehler is a veteran guy who pitched a lot of innings for us last year, and I don't think an extra day is going to have an impact at all. And it buys us time to make the right decision."

Pitching matchup
HOU: LHP Mike Hampton (4-5, 4.70 ERA)
Tuesday will be Hampton's first start since straining his groin on the last pitch he threw June 12 against the D-backs in Arizona. In that outing, Hampton walked a season-high five batters and gave up three runs on eight hits over five innings, taking the loss. Hampton is 4-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 12 starts this year for the Astros. He has not faced the Padres since 2005. In his career, the left-hander is 6-10 with a 5.17 ERA over 25 starts vs. San Diego.

SD: RHP Josh Banks (0-0, 2.84 ERA)
Banks takes Wade LeBlanc's spot in the rotation after LeBlanc was demoted to Triple-A. Banks provided the Padres with long relief after LeBlanc was knocked out early in his last two starts. As a starter in his career, Banks has posted a 2-6 record with a 5.40 ERA over 81 2/3 innings. In five appearances as a reliever, he has a 1.64 ERA over 11 innings.

Tidbits
Left fielder Carlos Lee (.347), shortstop Miguel Tejada (.341) and catcher Ivan Rodriguez (.323) were all hitting better than .320 in their careers against San Diego entering Monday. ... Closer Jose Valverde is two saves away from reaching 150 for his career. ... Third baseman Geoff Blum has committed one error in 87 games since July 26, 2008.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-H HD

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Astros (Brian Moehler, 4-4, 6.05) at Padres (Walter Silva, 0-1, 9.35), 9:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 6-6, 3.35) at Padres (Kevin Correia, 5-5, 4.23), 2:35 p.m. CT
• Friday: Astros (Felipe Paulino, 2-4, 5.51) at Giants (TBD), 9:15 p.m. CT

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less