Fields nears return, but Astros keep plan close to vest

Reliever recovering from strained groin at Triple-A Fresno

Fields nears return, but Astros keep plan close to vest

SEATTLE -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch admitted there's nothing really left for relief pitcher Josh Fields to show the club on his rehab stint at Triple-A Fresno, which indicates the right-hander could be activated as soon as this weekend in Oakland.

Fields, who strained his groin near the end of Spring Training, has made five rehab appearances at Fresno, including two scoreless innings Monday night. He threw in back-to-back games last week. Hinch texted Fields on Tuesday to see how he was doing.

"He sounds like he's ready to go and he feels good," Hinch said. "We'll get him back fully rested and see what happens."

The Astros know what they're going to do with Fields, but they're not saying it publicly because his return to the 25-man roster means somebody is going to have to go. The bullpen has been terrific this year (2.06 ERA) even without Fields, but Hinch didn't rule out carrying 13 pitchers.

That would be a nice luxury to have for next week's series in San Diego, where pitchers will hit and more relievers could be used.

"There's different ways to set the roster," Hinch said. "We have a National League series next week so we have to factor that a little bit. Depending on how we go, you could see 13 pitchers and you could also see a couple of different other scenarios. Everything is in play."

Fields, 29, led all Astros relievers in strikeouts (70), innings (54 2/3) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.52) last year while going 4-6 with a 4.45 ERA in a career-high 54 appearances.

"He's going to take a couple of days off and then we'll get back in touch whenever his next outing is going to be," Hinch said. "Nothing is etched is stone, but he's made every outing that we expected him to and felt really good."

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.