McHugh to IL with right elbow discomfort

James expected to join team when rosters expand; Pressly playing catch in Houston

August 31st, 2019

TORONTO -- For at least 10 days, the Astros’ bullpen will be without .

Ahead of Houston’s 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, the 32-year-old right-hander was placed on the injured list with right elbow discomfort, the same issue he battled earlier in the season.

“It’s been bothering me for the last little while, and I was able to pitch through it,” McHugh said. “It’s August. Every year, it’s tough for all the pitchers. Everybody’s going to get little nicks and knacks. … It’s frustrating, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of road ahead of us and I want to be a part of it.”

McHugh landed on the injured list in May and spent almost six weeks away from a big league mound as he worked his way through the soreness in his throwing elbow that he initially felt this season. He’s hoping he can use what worked then to find success in coming back more quickly this time around.

“It’s similar,” McHugh said. “It’s hard to say without taking pictures of it again whether it’s structural or not. Last time, it wasn’t, so we were assuming it was the same thing as last time. The discomfort’s the same -- same area, same general thing it was back in May. Hopefully, it’s something that we can get on top of and deal with, with some treatment.”

McHugh was the first man out of the bullpen in Friday night’s win at Rogers Centre, coming on with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning and a runner on base. The eight-year veteran allowed a double to Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette before getting Cavan Biggio to strike out to end the inning unscathed.

The plan was to have him pitch further into the matchup, but McHugh knew as he came off the mound and retreated to the dugout that his night had come to an end.

“When you’ve been dealing with it for a little while, you assume that it’s going to play out the same way it didn’t before, where maybe it’s tough for your first few throws, but after you get out there and on the mound, it’s not as bad,” McHugh said. “Yesterday, it didn’t quite loosen up for me … and didn’t respond well after the inning, so we shut it down.”

“In the middle of his outing, he came in -- I was going to leave him in the game -- and he said he just didn’t feel right," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He’s been battling a little bit of elbow issues for the last couple weeks. He’s been on the IL before with this, and given where we’re at, where our pitching is at, his best interests, our best interests, we needed to make a move and put him on the injured list.”

With McHugh on the shelf, the American League West leaders recalled 24-year-old right-hander Jose Urquidy ahead of Saturday’s game. In five starts with the Astros this season, the rookie righty posted a 5.87 ERA over 23 innings with four walks and 24 strikeouts.

“The good thing with this team is there have been guys all season who have stepped up and filled the void when guys have taken their hacks,” McHugh said. “September is right around the corner, and we know that we’re going to have some reinforcements to help us out until we all get healthy, but the plan is to have everybody healthy at the right time and play our best ball down the stretch.”

As McHugh heads to the sidelines, two Houston hurlers have taken steps in making their returns to the fold -- one inching closer and the other taking a leap. Josh James will join the Astros after Saturday’s affair and will be added to the roster when it expands on Sunday, while Ryan Pressly played catch in Houston on Saturday.

“It’s probably the best progress that I have to update,” Hinch said of Pressly. “It’s just playing catch … but it’s a step in the right direction. We want to keep the range of motion in his arm and make sure that he doesn’t fall too far behind from a strength standpoint.”