Morton nearing return to Astros rotation

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HOUSTON — Astros starter Charlie Morton threw 47 pitches in four scoreless innings in his second rehab start for Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday, then finished the outing with 15 pitches in the bullpen. The right-hander is progressing and has returned to Houston, manager A.J. Hinch said, but it is unclear whether he will need a third rehab start.

Morton went on the disabled list with a strained right lat on May 25. He completed the first three innings of Tuesday’s start in 28 pitches, and was hitting 92-95 mph on his fastball, matching his average fastball velocity for this season of 95 mph, according to Statcast™.

“I heard things were really good for him,” Hinch said. “He was very efficient with his pitches, got exactly four innings and some extra innings in the bullpen — all things that we had hoped would be the best-case scenario.”

Morton strikes out the side

If fully healthy, Morton may be ready to return to the Astros’ rotation.

“We have to wait to see if he feels great,” Hinch said. “But it’s a very encouraging sign that he can have an outing like that.”

If Morton does need another rehab start, he will likely pitch for Double-A Corpus Christi, because Fresno is on the road from June 30-July 3.

Lance McCullers Jr. will start Friday against the Yankees, and Francis Martes will start Saturday. Sunday’s starter — which will be Morton’s day to pitch — has yet to be decided, Hinch said.

“He’s going to pitch somewhere, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” Hinch said of Morton. “We’ve got a lot to consider until then.”

Morton is 5-3 with a 4.06 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 10 starts.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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