HOUSTON -- When the Astros placed ace left-hander Dallas Keuchelon the 10-day disabled list on May 20, manager A.J. Hinch was hopeful that Keuchel would miss just one start and could resume his exceptional pitching in short order.
With Keuchel (7-0, 1.84 ERA) set to return on Saturday in the second game of a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles (25-21), Hinch now faces a decision borne of rotation maneuvering that came while Keuchel was sidelined.
Right-hander Brad Peacock delivered 4 1/3 scoreless innings while making a spot start for Keuchel, and Hinch is taking that performance into consideration as he maps out his likely rotation when Houston (33-16) visits Minnesota next week.
"I'm still contemplating the thought of him making a start in Minnesota," Hinch said of Peacock. "We're not going to do anything with the rotation in this series. The next decision that we have is in the Minnesota series on the road. He's still under consideration for a start there but no determination has been made because I don't know if I'm going to need him (this series).
"We're trying to be smart about rest for our rotation. I'm even considering giving everybody an extra day. All of that's on the table and we'll have a determination at the end of the weekend."
If Peacock does get a second start, he could bump right-hander Mike Fiers (1-2, 5.40 ERA) to the bullpen or, as Hinch noted, simple provide the other starters additional rest. How Keuchel, 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA over five career starts against Baltimore, performs will have some influence on any forthcoming decision.
Left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 2.59 ERA) will start for the Orioles. Miley is 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA over seven career starts against the Astros, suffering that loss last season while posting a 6.28 ERA over three starts with the Orioles and Mariners.
The Orioles are facing a rotation change of their own, with right-hander Alec Asher (1-2, 2.17 ERA) scheduled to replace Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation on Sunday. Jimenez has struggled of late, going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA over his last three starts. Asher, meanwhile, has pitched effectively this season, particularly out of the bullpen, where he is 1-1 with a 1.62 ERA over nine appearances.
"I think he's deserving of the opportunity," Showalter said of Asher. "He's presented himself well since we had him in the spring, his start up here, and out of the bullpen. The challenge is it takes guys who've pitched well out of our pen but we've been challenged trying to figure out a way to get a little deeper into games. It doesn't matter who we've got in the bullpen if we don't."
Jimenez has worked out of the bullpen previously in his career; this shift in roles isn't at all foreign to him. That experience made the decision easier for Showalter.
"That's a big part of it," Showalter said. "He's got a history of going down there, coming back and pitching well. So, we'll try that.
"It's been a challenge for him. It's not like every time he's pitched it's been poor but we're trying to figure out a way to get him going."
Keuchel returning as Astros host Orioles