Houston Astros pitcher Jake Odorizzi covers bases for first time in ankle rehab

Astros pitcher Jake Odorizzi fielded his position at Minute Maid Park on Sunday for the first time since his left ankle injury, one of the final steps preceding a minor-league rehab assignment. 

Odorizzi went on the injured list after he strained tendons in his ankle while running to cover first base during his May 16 start. He threw multiple bullpens over the past few weeks and was increasing his running, but Sunday was his first time covering bases. 

Odorizzi said he did his fielding drills, which included fielding comebacker ground balls and bunts, at 50-60 percent of normal speed. He experienced some soreness in his left ankle while covering first base and described feeling like his gait was off. 

“When your injury happens doing something, usually the last thing to come is the movement that caused the injury,” he said. “So pushing off going full speed that way is a tougher movement than some of the other ones. But some of the other ones, the bunting stops, felt completely normal.” 

Odorizzi threw 57 pitches and simulated three innings in the bullpen on June 4 and in subsequent bullpens scaled back to about 30 pitches. Odorizzi said his arm strength is still up and that he is now focused on getting his leg ready. 

“Still have some building up to do for full-speed work, but overall a good first (time) getting back into the motion of covering first,” he said. “We’re going to do this again on Tuesday, so until then, same type of stuff we’re doing. Working on range of motion, running, all the build-up stuff.” 

Astros manager Dusty Baker called Sunday’s drills a “final hurdle” for Odorizzi, though the righthander will require rehab games at a minor-league affiliate before he can rejoin Houston’s rotation. The length and timing for such a rehab assignment are undetermined. 

“You don’t want people bunting on him and just different things and him not being able to back up, so knock on wood that he’ll come out good,” Baker said. “He has to be ready to go pretty good distances so we don’t put a damper on our bullpen.” 

Lance McCullers Jr. also participated in pitcher’s fielding drills Sunday, he said mainly to be a “buddy” for Odorizzi. McCullers, who is rehabbing a flexor tendon injury in his right forearm and building up in bullpen sessions, did not make overhand throws during the drills. 

“It’s tough to try to slow things down and compartmentalize, but when you have somebody going through it with you like Lance, obviously he’s not a leg injury but at the same time he’s had to be doing a rehab assignment and rehab steps longer than I have multiple different times,” Odorizzi said. “So it’s kind of nice to be around a guy who’s done it before and has the experience of taking it day-by-day instead of trying to do a lot in a short amount of time. So it’s good to have one of my best friends there with me just about every day in the training room.” 

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