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McCullers has 'normal' routine in bullpen session

Morton throws 50 pitches ahead of rehab assignment; Keuchel plays catch
MLB.com

OAKLAND -- It was an eventful afternoon in Oakland for the Astros' trio of starters on the disabled list.

Right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. (lower back discomfort) and Charlie Morton (right lat strain) had bullpen throwing sessions Monday, and lefty Dallas Keuchel (neck discomfort) played catch for the first time since hitting the DL on June 5.

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OAKLAND -- It was an eventful afternoon in Oakland for the Astros' trio of starters on the disabled list.

Right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. (lower back discomfort) and Charlie Morton (right lat strain) had bullpen throwing sessions Monday, and lefty Dallas Keuchel (neck discomfort) played catch for the first time since hitting the DL on June 5.

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Manager A.J. Hinch said Keuchel is still early in his progress, playing catch from less than 100 feet out. The Astros will have Keuchel throw harder and farther on flat ground before moving to getting back on the rubber.

McCullers, who was placed on the DL June 9, said he didn't keep track of his pitch count on the mound, doing his normal pre-start warmup routine. Infielder Alex Bregman stood in the batter's box for him.

"I did my normal warmup stuff -- threw in the stretch, threw in the windup," McCullers said. "Didn't do anything less, didn't do anything more. Just normal, which is what we were hoping for."

Hinch didn't watch the bullpen session but said it was "good news" to hear what McCullers thought of the session. While he won't pitch in Oakland, McCullers is the closest to coming back from the disabled list.

"Signs are pointing towards the Seattle series as being the time when he could rejoin the rotation, and that's good news," Hinch said, adding he could be slotted in at any point in the weekend series against the Mariners.

Meanwhile, Morton threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before batting practice, splitting them up in two sessions of 25 pitches and throwing all of his pitches. The next step for him is to head to Triple-A Fresno for a rehab assignment.

"He'll throw two or three innings, 35, 45 pitches, and build his arm strength back up and his endurance back up," Hinch said. "There's a couple starts in there where he would need [to throw] in order to get back to Major League caliber."

After being placed on the DL May 25, Morton acknowledged there was an initial scare over the severity of it, but he felt he's progressed better than the Astros expected. But the 33-year-old is hesitant to ponder what he wants to do in his rehab.

"I really would like to not have expectations, because it could go better than expected or worse than expected," Morton said. "I would really like to go out and get my work in. Hopefully, everything will go great and we'll go from there."

Hinch says the Astros remain focused on having the players in the rotation now do well and keep battling, but acknowledged there's some anticipation to get Keuchel, McCullers and Morton back and healthy.

"Those three were our three best at the beginning of the season," Hinch said. "There's great anticipation, but there's also tempered anticipation, just given that we have to focus on what we have now and the guys that are here. We'll welcome them with both arms when we get them."

Worth noting

Josh Reddick (concussion) participated in batting practice again Monday and Hinch said he expects Reddick to be back in the lineup Tuesday when the seven-day DL stint ends.

Alex Simon is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Monday. Follow him on Twitter at @alexsimon99.

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr., Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton