Relief arms, catchers on mend for Astros

Harris, Sipp, Gattis take part in sim game; McCann back next week

August 19th, 2017

HOUSTON -- The Astros continue to make progress in getting several of their injured players back into action, with relievers Will Harris and both throwing in a simulated setting at Minute Maid Park prior to Friday night's game against the Athletics.

Sipp -- who's been out since Aug. 1 with a calf soreness -- simulated two 15-pitch innings, with Harris -- who hasn't pitched since July 5 because of right shoulder inflammation -- throwing a 15-pitch inning in between. Catcher Evan Gattis, on the DL since Aug. 5 with a concussion, stepped in the box to face them in key step for his return.

"All of those guys took a mini step forward," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "[Carlos] Correa took ground balls and ran the bases again. He'll increase his volume hitting today inside, which is a good step. I guess everybody is taking one step farther. No one's taken a step back, which is a good sign. Sipp and Harris are trending toward a rehab assignment pretty soon, which is a good sign. Same for Gattis."

Correa had surgery to repair a tendon in his left thumb more than a month ago and will soon progress to hitting balls that are flipped and pitched by coaches. He's doing all other normal baseball activities and is ramping up daily.

"He'll meet with the doctors over the weekend and check where he's at and make sure we're all aligned with where his program needs to be," Hinch said. "The resistance of hitting is now what's next, the ball moving at him, whether it's being flipped or thrown at him. That's the next progression for strength testing for him. He's feeling great, he looks great, he's bouncing around. His body is as fresh as it's been since March, which is always good."

Meanwhile, right-hander , who's been on the disabled list since late July with back discomfort, will throw a live bullpen session on Sunday, Hinch said.

"If he can throw a really good live session, we don't feel like he is restricted in any way or holding back or tentative on the mound, we could possibly introduce a rehab assignment," Hinch said.

Gattis has been catching bullpen sessions, and he took batting practice Friday and will likely have a rehab assignment next week. Hinch said Gattis will require a rehab assignment, while fellow catcher (knee injury) won't and could return next week. He's eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.

"We need to test [Gattis] in games, specifically because of the concussion," Hinch said. "I think his body's fine and he can come back. As an example, McCann may not have a rehab assignment. They're the same position, but they might be handled differently because of the impact of the concussion. We want him to catch in a game and block balls. Potentially he could get a foul ball off his mask. I don't want that to hurt him, but we have to make sure he's cleared the health hurdle."