Pressly to return for weekend series

Hinch managing starters carefully to prepare for postseason

September 18th, 2019

HOUSTON -- All-Star relief pitcher , who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 20 after undergoing knee surgery last month, could return to action this weekend against the Angels, Astros manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday. Pressly came through his live batting practice session Tuesday without a hitch.

“We’ll map out a plan for the last week of the season,” Hinch said. “But it’s really encouraging how he feels. I’m looking forward to him pitching sometime in the Angels series.”

Pressly, acquired in a trade with the Twins last year, earned his first All-Star nod when he posted a 1.36 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in the first half of the season. He began the season on a 21 scoreless-inning streak before giving up a homer May 24.

He gave up seven of his 14 earned runs allowed this year after injuring his knee in late July. Hinch said Pressly’s stuff looks in line with where they’d like him to be, based on the data they were able to compile from his batting practice session Tuesday.

“It’s always hard to get the last little edge without competition,” Hinch said. “There’s still friendly banter and stuff like that that goes on, and that’s not quite the extra energy you get out of a game, but in a bullpen session, live BP session, [his stuff] was very much in line with what we expect.”

Meanwhile, veteran right-hander , who went on the injured list in late August for the second time this year with right shoulder discomfort, will throw live batting practice on Thursday’s off-day, which could be his final step before returning to action. Rookies Abraham Toro, Jack Mayfield and Garrett Stubbs will come to the park on the off-day to face Peacock.

Hinch keeping tabs on Cole, Verlander

Hinch pulled from Tuesday’s game after only 87 pitches, which was tied for his fewest pitches thrown this season. It was by design. Hinch told Verlander he was going to keep him under 100 pitches in one of his final starts of the season, if possible, and opted to do it in Tuesday’s win over the Rangers in which Verlander threw six scoreless innings.

Verlander, who has 19 wins and is 11 strikeouts shy of reaching 3,000 for his career, will be able to go back over 100 pitches in his next start Sunday in the home finale against the Angels. In his final regular-season start next week at Anaheim, Verlander’s workload will likely be ramped down again in order to get him ready for starting Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 4.

, who started against the Rangers on Wednesday, is in a different situation than Verlander. Cole missed 15 days between starts in mid-August because of hamstring discomfort. Hinch will likely not tinker with his pitch count until his final start of the season next week in Anaheim.

“I’m not as concerned with him backing off as much as I wanted to ensure J.V. got that time,” Hinch said. “We [individualize] some of these decisions. They’re not all the same. We have joked with [Wade] Miley that he backed off a couple of starts in a row, so he had his rest. [Zack] Greinke, we took out [after 73 pitches Sept. 9] when we had a blowout game. We’ve individualized it and the guys understand the reason we’re doing it is for them to be at their peak performance when the postseason starts, and they’re all on board.”

Hinch is sensitive to the fact both Verlander and Cole are chasing 300 strikeouts and are the AL Cy Young favorites, so he wants to treat them equally down the stretch.

“My job is about trying to win every game, but I’m very aware and I want their personal goals to be reached, whatever those are,” Hinch said. “I’m very aware they’re the top front-runners for the Cy Young. I respect that, and I have a job to do to treat them both fairly.”

Worth noting

Hinch said right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who made four starts for the Astros after being acquired in a July 31 trade with the Blue Jays, had shoulder surgery last week in California. Hinch said Sanchez’s recovery will likely carry him into the start of next season, which makes him a candidate to be non-tendered by the Astros this offseason.