McHugh, Keuchel ready to take next steps

McHugh, Keuchel ready to take next steps

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Collin McHugh could join the Astros' rotation as early as next weekend for the series against the Orioles in Baltimore. McHugh, who has missed the entire season with posterior impingement in his right elbow, is scheduled to make his final Minor League rehab start on Sunday for Double-A Corpus Christi, and is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches and/or six innings.

"Depending on how it goes, it very well could be his last [rehab] outing," manager A.J. Hinch said on Friday. "We're excited he's able to bounce back the way he has."

McHugh came down with arm fatigue early in spring camp and threw 1 2/3 innings against the Cardinals on March 27 in his only Grapefruit League appearance. He was placed on the disabled list late in the spring with tendinitis in his right shoulder and then left his first rehab start, in the season opener at Triple-A Fresno on April 6, because of discomfort in his elbow.

McHugh threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday and said he feels strong.

"Recovery has been great, probably more than what we could have hoped for," McHugh said. "It's kind of a telltale sign of where you are in that process. ... I felt good when I got on the mound and have been able to execute fairly well."

Meanwhile, All-Star left-hander Dallas Keuchel is nearing a Minor League rehab assignment. Keuchel, who's been on the DL since June 5 with discomfort in his neck, simulated two innings while throwing off the main mound at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.

Keuchel's next step will be decided this weekend. It will either be another strong bullpen session, throwing batting practice or heading out to a Minor League affiliate, perhaps as early as next weekend.

"We need to identify what that means and how he feels and whether it's multiple [rehab assignments] or not," Hinch said. "We're still going at a slow pace, but getting him off the game mound yesterday throwing a bullpen, that was nice to see. Getting him to resemble a player, getting active and throwing and getting off a mound, those are good signs."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.