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Astros' Martes could be headed to minors after facing Yankees

HOUSTON -- Houston rookie right-hander Francis Martes will make his fourth start of the season on Saturday against the New York Yankees, an outing that could be the last in the majors for the Astros' top prospect in the foreseeable future.

With right-hander Charlie Morton set to return from the 10-day disabled list next week in Toronto following a month-long rehab from a right lat strain, Martes (2-0, 5.51 ERA) is the likely candidate to cede a spot in the rotation and return to Triple-A Fresno, where he struggled with his command before making his debut on June 9.

The Astros were ravaged by injuries to their pitching staff at the time, and while Martes, the youngest pitcher in the American League at 21 years, 198 days old, has scuffled, this experience should aid his development.

"Like any young pitcher I would like him to learn the league and learn himself and learn what's successful for him," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's got a chance to be very dynamic and he can pitch his way to stay on this team, too.

"I think it's important for him to throw strikes, to utilize his stuff the right way, to carry himself with the mound presence of a big leaguer and to mature while still trying to get outs on a very competitive level."

Martes will face the Yankees for the first time. He lasted just two innings in his previous start, allowing two runs on two hits and four walks with three strikeouts in the Astros' 8-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners on June 25.

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.53 ERA) will start for the Yankees (43-35). Montgomery finished 4-0 with a 2.59 ERA over five starts in June. In his lone appearance against the Astros (54-27), Montgomery allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over six innings in a 5-1 loss on May 12.

In the midst of 16 consecutive games without an off-day, a stretch that will conclude on July 6, New York manager Joe Girardi is working hard to juggle his lineup so that his most effective contributors are allowed to contribute without burning out during this lengthy stretch of play.

"I thought it was important that we give (rookie right fielder Aaron) Judge another DH day," Girardi said. "He's not hurt, I'm just trying to be able to play him every day in this stretch. I'll probably DH him one more time in the next five games after this. Try to give (Brett Gardner) one and (Jacoby Ellsbury) one and (Gary Sanchez) one, maybe two. We're going to have to figure that out.

"My plan was to actually play (Sanchez in the series opener). When you get in at 6:15 in the morning (on Friday), I had to rethink it. And I was going to give him tomorrow (Saturday) completely off but now I'm leaning toward DH'ing him and keeping (catcher Austin) Romine with Montgomery and then going from there."

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