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Astros report to spring training in West Palm Beach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Reporting day to spring training came Wednesday for the Houston Astros’ pitchers and catchers as they begin on-field preparations for the 2019 season.

The first workout is set for Friday morning in West Palm Beach at the Astros' still relatively new facility, the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, which they built prior to the 2017 season.

Manager A.J. Hinch told the assembled media that physicals will take place Friday and the team will hit the field with throwing sessions for the pitchers on tap.

Major news off the field on Wednesday came in the form of an arbitration case victory for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. He and the team could not agree on a deal for the upcoming season so they went to arbitration, with Cole asking for a salary of $13.75 million. By winning the case that will be his salary for the 2019 season. This is his final season of arbitration, so presently he’s set to hit free agency in 2020. 

Cole and Justin Verlander are set at the front end of the rotation, with it a mere formality for Hinch to name Verlander the opening day starter for the second season in a row. Cole will be in the second spot in the rotation.

Nothing is set in the starting rotation beyond that, though Collin McHugh, who was sensational out of the bullpen in 2018, will start spring training as a starter with the expectation he’ll earn one of the remaining spots.

Left-hander Wade Miley was signed two weeks ago and presumably will claim a starting spot after going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts for the Brewers last season. 

The final spot in the rotation is the one to watch, with veteran Brad Peacock in a battle with youngsters Framber Valdez, Josh James and possibly top prospect Forrest Whitley, who will be at Astros spring training for the first time after they drafted him in the first round in 2016.