KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It's less than a month before spring training and the Houston Astros rotation is far from decided. They're set with ace Roy Oswalt. Wandy Rodriguez also has a spot. Rodriguez is recovering from a strained muscle, but will return Saturday.
The Associated Press reports -- assuming the injury-plagued Mike Hampton stays healthy -- he'll also have a spot. After that it gets a lot more tricky.
Brandon Backe, Brian Moehler, Fernando Nieve, Jose Capellan and Russ Ortiz look to be contending for the final two slots.
-- Moehler is probably a favorite for one of the final two slots after going 11-8 in 26 starts for Houston last season. He had a 4.56 ERA last year and has been solid this spring.
-- Backe was 9-14 with a 6.05 ERA after returning from Tommy John surgery on his elbow in 2006. His early season play was strong but he struggled down the stretch. He's done well this spring -- but is sidelined indefinitely with a strained muscle on his left side.
-- Nieve is a player the Astros hoped would compete for the fifth spot after dealing with various injuries and bouncing around from Houston to the minors over the last two years. He's struggled this spring.
-- Capellan and Ortiz, both non-roster invitees to camp, are probably long shots for spots in the rotation this season. Capellan has appeared in 99 major league games since 2004 but just eight of those have come in the last two seasons.