The Astros got their first look this season at Collin McHugh in a big league game when he came off the disabled list and pitched 4 2/3 innings against the Orioles on Saturday. He also showed the Orioles a new slider he began working on while he was on Minor League rehab.
McHugh, who was put on the disabled list late in the spring with an impingement in his elbow, was one out away from throwing five scoreless innings in his 2017 debut before a pair of two-out homers to Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop ended his night at 77 pitches. The Astros rallied to win, 8-4.
"It was good to be back out there," McHugh said. "I felt like we did some really good things today. I missed too many spots with my fastball. My command was a little spotty all day with my heater. It kind of came back to bite us there in the fifth, but I thought we did some good things."
McHugh began throwing a slider to right-handers (in place of his cut fastball) during his penultimate Minor League rehab outing. It's a pitch he learned from teammate Brad Peacock, who learned it from Triple-A pitcher Jordan Jankowski.
"It was pretty effective at times today, so hopefully we can continue to refine it moving forward and it can be a weapon for us," he said.
McHugh overcame a 27-pitch first inning and was rolling through four innings, having allowed just one hit. He walked Seth Smith to start the fifth and recorded two outs before giving up two-run homers to Jones and Schoop.
"I don't want the last inning to take away how well he threw the ball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He had a little extra on his fastball tonight. I thought that was notable. He's worked on a little slider that's a complement to his cutter and that was very effective against some of their right-handed hitters. You know, at the end, he left a couple fastballs in the zone and he was behind in the count to two pretty good home run hitters in a home run ballpark, so it's unfortunate that his outing ended that way because he pitched extraordinarily well for the first four innings."