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Keuchel to make first spring start Sunday

Astros left-hander says he feels good after simulated game
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After coming through a simulated game Tuesday with no issues, Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel has been slotted in to make his first Grapefruit League start of the season Sunday against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.

Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, is scheduled to pitch at least two innings, manager A.J. Hinch said on Wednesday. That would begin Keuchel's progression of adding intensity and volume into what is expected to be his third consecutive Opening Day start.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After coming through a simulated game Tuesday with no issues, Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel has been slotted in to make his first Grapefruit League start of the season Sunday against the Marlins in Jupiter, Fla.

Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, is scheduled to pitch at least two innings, manager A.J. Hinch said on Wednesday. That would begin Keuchel's progression of adding intensity and volume into what is expected to be his third consecutive Opening Day start.

"It's a good step for him and he looks ready to go," Hinch said. "If all goes well, I fully expect him to pitch Opening Day, but I don't want to declare that right now, because if he needs an extra day here or there, it affects timing. The end goal is not trying to pitch Opening Day; it's getting him ready for a full season."

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Keuchel, who's on an individualized throwing program this spring after missing last September with shoulder inflammation, threw 39 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday and felt fine. If all goes well, he could start four spring games before the beginning of the regular season.

Lance McCullers Jr., who missed the final two months of last season with a strained right elbow, will make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Collin McHugh, who had a "dead arm" early in camp, will throw his second bullpen session on Wednesday.

"Slowly but surely we're getting our guys intact," Hinch said. "To me, it's right on line with what we'd expect our rotation to get ramped up and into games. I know the attention is going to be on these guys because they're coming back from injuries, but they're right on pace with the rest of the league."

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

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel