Harris starts road back with first 'pen session

Harris starts road back with first 'pen session

ARLINGTON -- For the first time since going back on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, Astros reliever Will Harris threw off a mound Sunday. Harris threw 20-25 pitches in the bullpen at about 75-80 percent intensity at Globe Life Park in his first step toward returning to the team.

Harris, who hasn't pitched since July 5, said he will play catch on Monday and Tuesday before throwing another bullpen session Wednesday in Houston, and it could be at that point when he's sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment.

"We'll evaluate," Harris said. "Maybe go somewhere and throw or if it doesn't go well, maybe throw another bullpen from there. I don't really know. Today went good. Good first step, I guess."

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Harris would need "at least two, maybe three" bullpen sessions before going out on a rehab assignment.

"He's felt much better than he did even in his throwing program prior to his original injury," Hinch said. "Ramping him up is going to be relatively quick, but we'll be smart about giving him another bullpen when we get back home, and after that we'll determine whether [he gets] another bullpen or live BP session or a rehab stint."

Harris came off the disabled list for two days in late July, but he didn't throw in a game before going back on the DL. The Astros have missed Harris' presence at the back end of the bullpen. An All-Star in 2016, he's appeared in 34 games and posted a 2-2 record with a 2.86 ERA.

Not having Harris has limited the Astros' depth in the rotation and changed the roles of some others in the bullpen.

"He's a stabilizer because he can do a lot of things," Hinch said. "He can do anything from coming in and getting out of jams to handle left-handed hitters, which has been a problem for us this season, to closing out a game if Ken Giles is unavailable. That type of versatility from the sixth inning on is really invaluable. It answers a lot of questions. At the most critical times, Will Harris has pitches to get every hitter out."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.