Even With A Full Astros Staff, Hunter Brown Readies For Rotation

Hunter Brown’s big league baptism began last September. He started twice and appeared in seven major league games after spending the five months of the season at Triple-A Sugar Land.

All of Brown’s first benchmarks are out of the way. He will report to spring training with a more concrete future and free of the nerves or uneasiness some fellow rookies may exhibit. In some form, Brown will be a key member of an Astros pitching staff trying to absorb Justin Verlander’s absence.

“I’m prepping like I’m going to throw 200 innings this year,” Brown said. “I think that’s the standard of any guy who wants to be a starting pitcher . . . if it’s less than that or a different role, I’ll just adjust from there.”

Brown threw a career-high 130 innings last season between the minor and major leagues. He took an extra month off this winter to compensate and began throwing his bullpen sessions in early January.

Brown wanted to refine everything in his arsenal as opposed to focusing on one specific pitch or a piece of his mechanics. Brown’s high-90s four-seam fastball and low-90s slider are his two best pitches, but he worked this winter on better locating his curveball and discovering better feel for when to use his changeup.

The Astros are considering deploying a six-man rotation to make a spot for Brown. Houston did it at times last season but isn’t likely to be able to get through the year with a six-man setup.

“I’m a pitcher,” Brown said. “Whatever role it is that (manager) Dusty (Baker) and the front office (want), I’ll be ready to go. I’ve had some bullpen experience last year. I’ve obviously started in the minor leagues and come out of the bullpen there, too . . .

“I just want to show them that whatever role they put me in, I’ll be ready to try to do that to the best of my abilities.”

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