The hope had been that McHugh would pitch five stress-free innings for the Grizzlies and then report to the Astros, where he was 13-10 with a 4.34 ERA last season following a breakthrough 2015 that saw him go 19-7 with a 3.89 ERA.
"We expected him to go five innings," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It certainly caused him to come home. It's unfortunate that he had a little setback. He didn't finish his outing, so we're certainly disappointed for him."
McHugh was on a rehab assignment for Fresno after arm fatigue early in the spring caused him to fall behind in his throwing program.
After allowing three runs on three hits with a walk in a 27-pitch first inning, McHugh took the mound to warm up for the second, but he didn't feel well enough to continue.
"He had some tightness in his elbow and in his bicep, and did the right thing by calling the trainer out and getting out of the game," Hinch said.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.