Correa may return vs. Cubs; Keuchel unclear

Correa may return vs. Cubs; Keuchel unclear

HOUSTON -- Two key members of the American League Wild Card-contending Astros received similar diagnoses on nearly identical injuries on Friday, but one likely has a speedier timetable for a return than the other.

Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel are each dealing with left shoulder inflammation. Correa was out of the lineup for a fourth consecutive day Saturday afternoon against the Cubs but could play as soon as Sunday night's finale with a late 7:05 p.m. CT first pitch, whereas Keuchel's return date is still to be determined.

"He's out for a couple of reasons," manager A.J. Hinch said of Correa. "One, he's feeling a little bit of soreness. Secondly, [Saturday], it's a very early game, so we felt like another day of rest would be better. The plan is to check with him every day.

"Every time we want to put him in there, we risk the next two or three days, so we've got to be careful." 

Keuchel, who was scratched from his start in Cleveland last Tuesday, was relieved to find out, after an MRI, that there is no structural damage in the shoulder beyond the originally diagnosed inflammation. But he's now in a holding pattern, and the only thing he can do is rest.

"We have a plan in place," Keuchel said. "Give it two starts at least, and just let it calm down. There is no timetable set for return, but I firmly believe we'll still be in the playoff hunt, so hopefully, I can help the guys out here in the next week or so."

Hinch on Keuchel's injury

Keuchel has been dealing with the discomfort since the day after his most recent start, on Aug. 27 against the Rays in Houston. He tried throwing two days after that, but "there was nothing there," he said.

"We have a great training staff, and they've assured me that a little bit of time will heal," he said. "I'm looking forward to that. I wish I could just fast forward and get this thing over with, but it is what it is right now."

Correa, who said he hurt his shoulder on a series of plays -- most noticeably, making a diving stop on Monday in Cleveland -- also returned to Houston during the series with the Indians to be examined by Astros doctors.

Correa's awesome play

Correa, like Keuchel, is mostly relying on rest to speed up the recovery.

"I need another day to get it right, and hopefully, I'll be back in action," Correa said Saturday. "We're taking it day to day, so I can't give you an update. I may wake up tomorrow really sore and may not be able to play.

"So I don't want to say I will play tomorrow, but hopefully, it will be really soon."

The timing of the injuries is problematic for the Astros, who are 2 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race after Saturday's 2-1 win over the Cubs, with 20 games remaining in the season.

Keuchel, who struggled in the first half, seemed to have found a groove in mid-June, compiling a 3.47 ERA in 12 starts.

At the time of his injury, Correa had a 12-game hitting streak, during which he batted .333. He leads the AL in doubles (23) and ranks third in RBIs (57) since June 20.

"They're both disappointed in being on the injured list and not active and helping us every single day, but they're mending," Hinch said. "Hopefully, they're going to mend fast."

Both Correa and Keuchel are entering uncharted waters as they navigate through these injuries. Correa missed time in the Minor Leagues after fracturing a leg, but neither has had any major setbacks at the Major League level.

"It's scary when you have been out there every day for basically your whole career, and for the first time in your career, you're missing some time," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "And it's coming at a very critical time for the team. I know all these players feel that they want to come back to help their teammates out, but at the end of the day, they need to take care of their long-term careers, and we need to take care of their long-term careers as well."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.