Harrell, Keuchel excited to return to rotation

Harrell, Keuchel excited to return to rotation

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dallas Keuchel spent last season bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, especially later in the year, and each came to camp this year determined to grab a spot in the rotation entering 2014.

After being told Wednesday they had won the final two spots in the rotation -- Jerome Williams and Brad Peacock are going to the bullpen -- Harrell and Keuchel were grateful for the show of faith from the Astros.

"It's exciting," said Harrell, who will pitch April 4 against the Angels. "It's an opportunity to go out and start every fifth day and hopefully get back to where I was in the past, and put last year behind me and kind of have a fresh, new start."

Harrell went 6-17 with a 5.86 ERA in 36 games last year, including 22 starts, and is looking to duplicate the great success he had in 2012, when he was 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts.

"It helps they have confidence in me to give me the opportunity to make the team, and that shows they still believe in me," he said. "That's going to help out a lot, and I think the team overall is better this year, which will also help out, too."

Keuchel, a lefty who will start April 5, pitched much better in the rotation than he did in relief last year. He had a 4.90 ERA in 22 starts and a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in relief in 2013.

"Any time you get the chance to start and try to pitch the majority of the game and be a starting pitcher is exciting," he said. "That's what I came to camp wanting to do. I didn't put any extra pressure on myself. I was hoping to stay healthy and keep on pitching. I'm pretty happy."

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.