McHugh champing at bit to follow up breakout year

Right-hander trying to sharpen command of changeup as season draws near

McHugh champing at bit to follow up breakout year

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The regular season can't come soon enough for Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

"I'm ready, man. I'm excited," McHugh said. "We've gotten through almost five weeks of camp at this point, and all of us are itching to get to Houston and get some games started and hit the ground running."

McHugh, who went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA in his breakout 2014 season, made his fifth start in Grapefruit League action on Tuesday against the Mets at Tradition Field, allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits while striking out seven and throwing 80 pitches.

"I wanted to get the pitch count up," McHugh said. "We got up over 75 pitches, which is good. I probably have one more start -- maybe one of the exhibition games [in Houston] -- to get back up to that 100 plateau by the time the season starts. Getting five innings under my belt, getting through a lineup 2 1/2 times were all things I haven't done yet this spring. It's a good progression so far."

Outlook: McHugh, SP, HOU

McHugh has struck out 19 batters and walked only four in 16 1/3 innings this spring, which is similar to the ratio he had last year when he struck out 157 and walked only 41. He did give up a homer to David Wright but was solid otherwise.

"I thought McHugh was sharp for most of his outing, and getting him through five was a success," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think the quality was there to match. He expects to be perfect every time out. I'm not sure what his comments were, but I'm sure he's harder on himself than I'm going to be on him."

Wright's two-run homer

McHugh threw a few more changeups on Tuesday than he normally would have as he continues to get himself ready to start the season in the rotation.

"We really have to start to sharpen up all of them and throw them in counts you wouldn't normally throw them," McHugh said.

Injury update: Right-hander Josh Fields, who left Monday's 14-10 loss to the Braves with a mild right groin strain, remains day to day. Right-hander Brad Peacock, who's working his way back from offseason hip surgery, threw in a Minor League game on Tuesday and could make an appearance in a Grapefruit League game before the spring ends.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.