KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Just moments after the Astros wrapped up Grapefruit League play with a win over the Mets on Wednesday, manager Bo Porter announced right-hander Lucas Harrell and left-hander Dallas Keuchel would handle the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.
Harrell and Keuchel were battling with Jerome Williams and Brad Peacock, but those two were informed they will begin the season in the bullpen. Porter thought both Harrell and Keuchel were more effective as starters than relievers last season.
Harrell was 1-2 with a 7.50 ERA in 15 innings this spring, allowing 24 hits and striking out three batters. Keuchel worked 17 spring innings and gave up 25 hits and 11 earned runs for a 5.82 ERA.
"When you look at the complete body of work, Jerome has done both, and when you look at Lucas and Keuchel, we had Lucas in the bullpen last year, and we felt he was much better suited as a starting pitcher," Porter said. "A guy who's a sinkerballer, he needs to wear down a little bit.
"You look at Dallas, we just felt the time he spent in the rotation was much better than the time he spent in the bullpen. I felt Peacock has that power stuff that could play as a long reliever, or in a situation where the starter gives us extended innings, he's another option in short relief as well."
Harrell posted a 5.98 ERA in 22 starts in 2013 and had a 5.49 ERA in 39 1/3 innings in relief. Keuchel had a 4.90 ERA in 22 starts and a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. Williams went 8-10 with a 5.06 ERA in 25 starts for the Angels last season and posted a 2.35 ERA in 30 2/3 innings in relief.
"Jerome was here to do whatever it is that we need to do in order to win baseball games," Porter said. "Like I said to him, look at the number of starting pitchers we went through last year. This is where we're at today, and that could change a week from now, I don't know."
The Astros used 10 different starters last year.