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03/15/09 4:10 PM ET

Hensley out of rotation race

Ortiz, Capellan front-runners for Astros' fifth and final spot

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Clay Hensley is out of the mix for a job in the Astros' rotation, manager Cecil Cooper revealed Sunday morning.

The race for the fifth-starter job appears to be down to three, although realistically, Felipe Paulino and his 12.60 spring ERA is, for all intents and purposes, barely a realistic candidate. That leaves Jose Capellan and Russ Ortiz, with the edge probably going to Ortiz only because of the tremendous success he's had as a starter through his career before injuries set in.

Ortiz allowed three runs and walked three over 3 2/3 innings in his start against the Phillies on Saturday, but Cooper said that did not hinder the right-hander's chances to make the team.

"He did not fall out of grace," Cooper said. "He did fine. And he got his pitch count up, which was important."

Hensley entered camp as a bullpen candidate with extensive past experience as a starter. Pitching coach Dewey Robinson informed Hensley on Sunday that he would be considered as a bullpen candidate only.

Hensley has allowed nine earned runs over 5 2/3 innings this spring for a 14.29 ERA.

On the injury front, Alberto Arias, who was hit on his right hand with a line drive while facing Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui on Sunday, will not need X-rays as originally thought.

"[Arias] exercised it, iced it most of [Saturday] night, and he feels good," Cooper said. "I don't see him being set back."

Brandon Backe's status remains unchanged. He met with doctors Sunday but remains no closer to returning to the mound after straining an intercostal muscle a week ago.

"He's not worse; he's not better," Cooper said. "There's not a lot of progress."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.