Key Astros pitcher close to return after first start of rehab

Houston Astros right-hander José Urquidy fanned two of the first three batters he faced in what was a productive rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land on Sunday.

The starting pitcher has been out since March, when he left a spring training game with a forearm strain. Urquidy is part of a long list of injuries to Astros starting pitchers this season. Justin Verlander and JP France both entered spring training with shoulder soreness, and although France was able to start the season, he was recently sent back to Triple-A and was subsequently listed on the roster. injured list with pain again. Verlander made two rehab starts during the regular season before returning on April 19.

Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier also spent time on the IL, although they have since returned. Now it looks like Urquidy is next in line. In his first rehab start for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, Urquidy allowed three earned runs on three hits while striking out three and walking one over 2 2/3 innings. He threw 46 pitches, 38 of which were strikes.

“I’m pretty happy because I didn’t feel anything bad, so I feel like I’m better and healthy,” Urquidy told Chron.

Urquidy retired the first three batters he faced in the first half before giving up a solo homer when he hung his sweeper up the middle. He retired the next five batters he faced in the second and third innings before issuing a four-pitch walk. He gave up a double and a single, which scored two more runs before leaving the game.

According to Baseball Savant, Urquidy recorded five whiffs, including two on the fastball, two on the changeup and one on his sweeper. His fastball touched 93.1 mph.

“I thought the slider and changeup worked well,” Urquidy said. “I left a slider in the middle and it was a homer, but I think I hit a few swings and misses with the slider.”

While Joe Espada told the media that Urquidy was expected to throw 60 to 65 pitches and go four innings, Urquidy said the plan was actually three innings with a maximum of 50 pitches. His next rehab start will be 60 to 70 pitches, but he doesn’t know yet when that will be.

The Astros are also still awaiting the return of Luis Garcia, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, as well as Lance McCullers, who is rehabbing a torn flexor tendon.