Keuchel eyes return after Saturday rehab start

Astros ace set to pitch for Class A Short-Season Tri-City

July 19th, 2017

HOUSTON -- Astros left-handed ace will officially need another rehab start.

Keuchel will make his second rehab start on Saturday in Lowell, Mass., for the Tri-City ValleyCats, the Astros' Class A Short-Season affiliate. The lefty threw three scoreless innings in his first rehab start on Monday for Double-A Corpus Christi.

"It's a little rare for guys to rehab at that level, but, given we were going to be in the Northeast here in Baltimore and we go to Philly after that, it was certainly the most convenient," Hinch said Friday. "He will get a taste of another level, increase his pitch count, hopefully his inning count and get closer to being back here."

Keuchel, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with neck discomfort on June 8 (retroactive to June 5) and didn't throw for nearly a month, said he felt "regular soreness" and no pain after his first rehab start.

"Just another good step in the right direction," he said. "I look to contribute here pretty soon. I need to build my pitch count up at some point and make sure I'm ready to go. It's exciting. ... I've been feeling pretty good."

Keuchel said that his second rehab start is more about building his arm stamina.

"I always try to go up and down more than pitch counts," Keuchel said. "I'd like to do four or five innings. That'll set me up for maybe five, six in the first start back."

"I mean, [he'll throw] more than last time, but less than a full game, so [he] can be so efficient. That's a tricky level to think about. I could see him going very quick and efficient," Hinch said. "They see a big leaguer like that, they want to go out and swing, they put the ball in play, and he's very efficient. We could get him four or five [innings], and I could also see them being tough on him and maybe driving his pitch count up."

If all goes well and Saturday's start is, in fact, Keuchel's last rehab start, it would line him up to return to MLB action for the Astros' three-game series at Detroit from July 28-30. Hinch said that he would like Keuchel to pitch during this nine-game road trip.

"I hope [this will be his last rehab start]," Hinch said. "I know he's feeling really good. We want to make sure that he feels as good as he did last time this next time. If that's the case, we will certainly consider this being his last time. He's itching to get back at this level."