Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Keuchel had been battling an illness for days and he didn't feel well while warming up in the bullpen on Wednesday. An evaluation of Keuchel by medical personnel inside the clubhouse revealed he had neck soreness during his warmup routine.
"That built the idea that we've got to get him back to Houston and get evaluate by our docs, and we did," Hinch said. "I don't know whether the sickness led to more symptoms in his neck or whether they just simultaneously helped each other coming to the surface, but it's unfortunate that we lose him and him having been sick for a couple of days and not throwing, having a very bizarre warmup and scratching him at the last minute has ended in the DL."
The loss of Keuchel is a big blow to a Houston team that has gotten off to a 42-18 start and has opened up a 12-game lead in the American League West. He's the fourth Astros starting pitcher to go on the disabled list this year, joining McHugh (posterior impingement in his right elbow), Charlie Morton (right lat strain) and Joe Musgrove (right shoulder discomfort). Musgrove threw a bullpen on Thursday without issue and could return to the rotation on Monday.
Keuchel, who battled shoulder inflammation all of last season before being shut down in September, had returned to his Cy Young form, going 9-0 with a Major League-leading 1.67 ERA in his first 11 starts.
"We need to get him right before he gets back on the mound," Hinch said. "We hope it's soon. If it's one start, great. If it's more than one start, it is what it is and we'll have to adapt."
With McHugh out until likely July and Morton out indefinitely, the Astros' pursuit for another starting pitcher via trade could heat up in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Hinch said Martes could start at some point, but he'll be used in long relief for now.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
The Major League leader in wins (nine), ERA (1.67) and WHIP (0.87), Keuchel will leave a major hole in fantasy lineups while he recovers from his injury. Although the left-hander spent the minimum amount of time on the 10-day disabled list in May with a similar ailment, owners must prepare for the possibility of a longer absence this time around. Shallow-league owners seeking a replacement can check waivers for an arm such as Dan Straily or Mike Foltynewicz, while those in deeper leagues can take a look at Zack Godley, Randall Delgado or Dinelson Lamet.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for M/LB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.