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McHugh skipping start with sore back

Harris set for first appearance of Spring Training after surgery
@brianmctaggart
March 3, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-handed starter Collin McHugh will skip his next scheduled start Monday and will instead pitch Saturday against the Cardinals. McHugh experienced a sore back during his first Grapefruit League start on Wednesday and is being moved back as a precaution. “We could push him

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-handed starter Collin McHugh will skip his next scheduled start Monday and will instead pitch Saturday against the Cardinals. McHugh experienced a sore back during his first Grapefruit League start on Wednesday and is being moved back as a precaution.

“We could push him and probably pitch him in the next day or two, but we’re going to completely skip him, so he could get a very aggressive bullpen midweek, probably after the off day [Tuesday], and then he’ll pitch next Saturday,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “We feel like if we give him enough time now this won’t linger. We’ll give it even more days than he probably needs.”

Because of the length of Spring Training, Hinch said having a pitcher skip one start won’t impede his readiness for the regular season. That’s even true with McHugh, who pitched exclusively in relief last season (62 appearances) after making 102 starts the previous four seasons.

“He’s had plenty of time to build up, he’s going to be ready for the season,” Hinch said. “The concern is only we’re this early in camp and timing wise we’re skipping his start and under a little more pressure to keep him in turn to get him where we want to get him.”

Harris set for spring debut
After undergoing surgery in December to repair an umbilical hernia, veteran reliever Will Harris was a few weeks behind in his throwing program when spring camp started. That’s why he will make his Grapefruit League debut in Monday’s game against the Mets at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Harris became symptomatic while sitting on his couch in Louisiana watching a Saints game, and he flew to Houston to have surgery a few days later. He said he sat around for four weeks without trying to move his core, but he didn’t take any days off from his rehab, which put him only about two weeks behind.

“When I showed up, I hadn’t really thrown a bullpen yet,” Harris said. “I felt like I was ready to throw a bullpen. Normally I would have been throwing bullpens for a couple of weeks. My first bullpen I threw here was my first one of the offseason. I’ve been off the mound four or five times.

“Usually you feel like you’re ready [for the start of the season] with about two weeks to go [in Spring Training]. I knew I had some built-in time there to make up for the time this offseason. I feel like I’m right where I need to be, which is all I could ask.”

Pressly impresses in spring debut
The most eye-opening performance of Sunday’s loss to the Nationals was the 14 pitches thrown by Astros reliever Ryan Pressly, who was making his Grapefruit League debut.

Pressly struck out the side in the fifth inning, throwing 12 strikes, including a high 96-mph fastball to blow away former Twins teammate Brian Dozier.

"It felt good," Pressly said. "I'm obviously still working on things. You obviously like to see the results like I did today, but still a lot of stuff that needs to be worked on -- consistent release points and stuff like that. It felt good to be back out there with my guys and get a little bit of adrenaline going. It was really fun to be out there."

Pressly was terrific after coming over to the Astros in a July trade from the Twins. He had a 0.77 ERA and a 0.600 WHIP in 26 games with Houston, striking out 32 and walking just three. Pressly ended the season with a 21-game scoreless streak. But he wasn’t about to make too much out of Sunday’s performance.

"There's still a lot of stuff I need to clean up for me personally," Pressly said. "I spun the ball really well and threw my offspeed pitches for strikes. The fastball was a little bit up in the zone, but we'll clean that up throughout spring. I was happy with today."

Pressly, like a couple of other relievers, has been on an individualized throwing program this spring, which is why he hadn't pitched prior to Sunday.

"It was a big workload last year; the past couple of years," he said. "They kind of gave me a little bit of leniency of getting into a game, which I greatly appreciate. You know how it is. In 162 games plus postseason, it's quite a grind. You miss a couple of games in Spring Training, I don't think anything is going to raise any eyebrows."

Another pitcher making his debut Sunday was Hector Rendon, who gave up three runs on two hits and struck out a pair in two-thirds of an inning.

Up next
Veteran left-hander Wade Miley will start the Astros' split-squad game at the Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Monday. Rogelio Armenteros will start the other split-squad game against the Mets in West Palm Beach, also at 12:05 p.m. CT.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.