Lyles among 7 cut by the Astros on Monday

The Astros trimmed their spring roster by seven players Monday morning, with the most notable player on the list being top prospect Jordan Lyles, who had a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings and appeared to be one of the favorites for the fifth starter’s job.

Astros manager Brad Mills informed Nelson Figueroa on Monday he had won the fifth starter’s job. 

The Astros set their pitching rotation, with the 36-year-old Figueroa – the oldest player on the team – securing the final spot behind right-hander Brett Myers, left-handers J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez and right-hander Bud Norris.

When the Astros open the season with a three-game series at the Phillies on April 1, two of their three starters will be former Phillies. Myers will start Opening Day against Roy Halladay and be followed by Rodriguez, who will face Cliff Lee on April 2, and Happ, who will square off against his old team and former Astros ace Roy Oswalt in the series finale April 3.

Cutting Lyles had to be a difficult call, but considering he’ll pitch at 20 years old all season and has barely gotten his feet wet at Triple-A, it was certainly understandable.

The Astros also optioned pitcher Sergio Escalona to the Minor Leagues and reassigned pitchers Patrick Urckfitz, Fernando Rodriguez and Casey Fien and outfielders Drew Locke and T.J. Steele. The one non-roster outfielder still in the mix is J.B. Shuck.

“I knew it was coming, sort of,” said Lyles, who will open the season in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City. “I’ll just go down there to camp for a little bit, get ready for the season, have a couple of good months and see what happens.”

Lyles said he wasn’t surprised by the news.

“I knew being younger and the money side of the game… But Figgy pitched well enough to earn a spot and you can’t hold that against him,” Lyles said. “I think I opened some eyes this spring. I know they haven’t seen me before, but now they have. Whenever they need a guy to go out there on the mound for them during the season, maybe I’m first in line.”

Lyles said Astros management just told him to continue what he’s been doing and didn’t give any hints about his immediate future.

“If it comes in a couple of months or at the end of the season, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I just want to get ready and build on the season I had last year.”

Lyles was named the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year last year after going a combined 7-12 with a 3.57 ERA in a season split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. He got six starts at the end of the year in Round Rock and was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his Triple-A debut.

“It will be good to get back there and to kind of get back to where I was at the end of the year,” Lyles said. “I didn’t really have the best starts last year, so it will be good to get back there and show them what I can do at the Triple-A level.”

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