HOUSTON -- With right-hander Ross Seaton suffering a minor injury and missing a start, and Lucas Harrell having been traded to the D-backs, the Astros are implementing a six-man rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City for the time being.
Like much of last year, the Astros have been using a tandem-starter system in the upper level of the Minor Leagues, where two starters would throw four or five innings every four games. With Seaton and Harrell out of the mix, the RedHawks' rotation consists of left-hander Rudy Owens and right-handers Mike Foltynewicz, Jake Buchanan, Nick Tropeano, David Martinez and Bobby Doran.
"This is a temporary transition," general manger Jeff Luhnow said. "We are going back to the modified tandem. I talked to the guys before the season started about the fact that one of the big pieces of feedback we got last year was that over the course of the summer, the players got a little bit fatigued, and we wanted to figure out a way to get more rest for them.
"After the first month of doing the traditional tandem with eight pitchers in groups of two, we're starting -- effective today -- the next phase, which is a little bit different."
Luhnow said the starters are still paired with another pitcher, but each one has additional rest built into their schedule. They will alternate between having their own start and starting in combination with another pitcher.
"It's a little bit complicated, and I'm not going to describe to you the formula of how we're doing it, but the net effect is you will see every Minor League pitcher that has up to now been in a tandem, they will have their own starts, and they will go back into the tandem with the same tandem partner at times," he said.
Luhnow said it will allow the pitchers to get a little bit more rest, as well as give them the opportunity to work deeper into games. The starters will work their way up to a pitch count of 100, which would be the maximum.
"We're excited about it," he said. "We put a lot of time and thought and energy, and gathered a lot of feedback from coaches and the pitchers themselves, and feel like this is a good evolution of the system we started last year, and we're going to try it out for the next month, at least, and see how it goes and get more feedback."
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.