Norris named Opening Day starter, Lyles to Triple-A

Astros manager Bo Porter on Wednesday named right-hander Bud Norris as the team’s Opening Day starter. Norris will start March 31 against the Rangers, with Lucas Harrell pitching April 2 and Philip Humber going in the April 3 series finale.

It will be the first career Opening Day assignment for Norris, who went 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts for the Astros last year, including a 1.71 ERA at Minute Maid Park. Norris will be the fourth different pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Astros following Wandy Rodriguez (2012), Brett Myers (2011) and Roy Oswalt (2003-10).

“Bud Norris has done everything we’ve asked him to do from the time I’ve taken the job to being that leader that this organization needs,” Porter said. “You look at his home and road splits and how well he’s pitched at Minute Maid Park and how well he’s pitched in big games… I think he gets up for big games.

“Even as far back as last year, he had the second-best ERA in all of baseball pitching at home and the Opening Day starter, if you look at it, if they stay on turn and stay  healthy, that guy will get three more starts at Minute Maid Park between now and All-Star break. It was all those factors, combined with the history that goes with it. He’s our most-veteran [starting] pitcher, outside of [Erik] Bedard.”

The rest of the rotation is unknown, but the Astros did option right-handers Jordan Lyles and John Ely to Triple-A Oklahoma City, meaning Lyles won’t be in the rotation to start the year. Alex White, Brad Peacock, Edgar Gonzalez and Bedard are battling for the final two spots in the rotation, though it’s more likely Gonzalez will be used in long relief.

Lyles had allowed 36 hits and 23 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings this spring.

“When you look at it, Philip Humber has pitched terrific this spring and is an experienced guy,” Porter said. “We brought guys like Humber, White and Bedard in there because we wanted to add more experience to the rotation, but if you look at Jordan Lyles, he’s 22 years old and we believe he’s going to be part of the rotation for many years to come. Even in my conversation with him I said, ‘Roy Halladay was sent to the Minor Leagues.’ … I told him, ‘This is not a demotion, this is a delay. You go down there and take care of your business and you’ll be back here shortly.'”

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