July 15, 2017

HOUSTON (AP) Injured Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday.

Keuchel hasn't pitched for the AL West leaders since June 2 because of a pinched nerve in his neck. The lefty will likely need multiple starts in the minors before he comes off the disabled list, but the Astros haven't yet determined exactly how many he will need. He's expected to throw two innings on Monday.

''I think we're all just really happy that he's going to face some live competition and not worry so much about the end game and target dates and things like that,'' manager A.J. Hinch said. ''Let's just get him in a game.''

The 2015 American League Cy Young award winner can't wait to get back on the mound and is looking forward to seeing how his body responds when he faces live competition for the first time in six weeks.

''I just want to see how I feel and that will tell me where I'm at,'' he said. ''I think I'm on the way back but only time will tell.''

Keuchel put up some of the best numbers in the majors for the Astros before he was injured, going 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 starts to bounce back from a tough 2016 campaign.

It's his second stint on the disabled list this season with the same problem. The first time he missed just one start before returning, but he never completely got rid of the problem and landed on the DL again after just two starts.

''I think this time it really did me good to take a little bit more time,'' he said. ''I think if it was a little bit tighter race I think I would have come back a little bit sooner. But it's probably better just to take a little bit more time in our case.''

Keuchel, who threw a bullpen session on Thursday, noted that he's encouraged that he won't have another setback because the pain in his neck is finally gone.

''There's really nothing there anymore,'' he said. ''I feel like a normal person for the first time in a while. So that feels really good.''

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