HOUSTON -- The Astros' left-handed ace, Dallas Keuchel, is scheduled to start on Monday.
No, not for the Astros. Keuchel, a two-time All-Star and the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, will make his first rehab start for Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday, nearly six weeks after being placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation and discomfort in his neck on June 5.
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"I'm really anxious," Keuchel said. "That's the most fun part, the competition. The pitcher, the batter and just being around the guys again and being able to contribute is one of the main things. So as long as I feel good and continue to progress, I'm hoping to be out there soon. It's going to be a little bit of a process just based on how I respond to Monday."
Keuchel is expected to throw two or three innings, with no predetermined pitch count. Before hitting the DL, he was 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 75 2/3 innings.
"Whether that's two [innings] or whether that's three depends on efficiency," said manager A.J. Hinch. "If I set a number, I'm going to be wrong either way -- it's either too much or too little. At least two innings is what we're looking for.
"Honestly, after this much time off, I'm just glad he's going to be on a mound on a particular date," he added. "Let's be honest. I think we're all just really happy that he's going to face some live competition and not worry so much about the end game and target dates and things like that. Let's just get him in a game."
It may be "naive," to use Hinch's word, for the Astros to plan for Keuchel to make only one rehab start. Keuchel's rehab program will continue as the Astros assess how he reacts physically on Tuesday, the day after his first start since June 2.
"I don't know," Keuchel said. "It's how I feel on Tuesday and how I continue to progress. It may be one [start], it may be 14."
However, Keuchel -- who has missed 34 games -- said that he's as well physically and pain-free as he's been throughout his rehab.
"There's really nothing there anymore," he said. "I feel like a normal person for the first time in a while. That feels really good. I pushed through as much as I could."
Likewise, right-hander Collin McHugh is expected to throw six innings and/or 90 to 95 pitches on Sunday in what is most likely his final rehab start with Corpus Christi.
McHugh has missed the entire season while dealing with a posterior impingement in his throwing elbow.
"Better times are ahead," Keuchel said.
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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