Rehabbing Fields close to returning to Astros' bullpen

Rehabbing Fields close to returning to Astros' bullpen

ARLINGTON -- Astros relief pitcher Josh Fields, who started the season on the disabled list with a strained groin, could return to the club later this week. Fields threw a scoreless inning during a Minor League rehab outing Saturday at Triple-A Fresno.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he'd like Fields to throw in back-to-back games before he gets activated, and that could happen on Monday and Tuesday, or Tuesday and Wednesday.

"This is just like the end of Spring Training for him," Hinch said. "We wanted all of our guys to go back to back and be able to pitch in their roles they're going to pitch in during the season. He's going to finish that with a couple of more outings."

When Fields is deemed ready, he'll be activated, which means the Astros will have to open up a spot in the bullpen. Fields' injury opened the door for right-hander Will Harris to make the club out of spring, and Harris has pitched well early. He threw two scoreless innings Saturday and has 18 consecutive scoreless appearances since Aug. 19.

Still, Fields established himself as a key weapon in the bullpen after posting a 4.45 ERA in 54 2/3 innings last year, leading the relief corps in strikeouts (70), innings and strikeouts per nine innings.

"He's on our team when he's ready physically and pitching well," Hinch said. "Hopefully, we have a good problem where we have too many guys who are throwing well, but Josh will be back when he's healthy and ready."

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.