Astros starter suffers rehab setback that doesn't bode well for 2024 return chances

Houston can't seem to catch a break.
Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

It has been an incredibly frustrating season for the Houston Astros when it comes to injuries. It feels like when someone is finally getting healthy, someone else gets hurt and puts the team back right in the same difficult position. Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker are slowly on the mend, but now the Astros have to deal with rookie Jake Bloss going down with an injury. It never ends.

One injury that hasn't gotten much in the way of attention is JP France, who got sent to the minors and then was ultimately placed on the minor league IL with a shoulder injury. The word at the time was that France could be out for "a while" but France was beginning to throw a little bit in a controlled setting and there was a very good chance that he could return this season.

However, Astros general manager Dana Brown revealed on Monday that France had a setback during his rehab which doesn't bode well for him playing his way back into a big league role this season.

Astros News: JP France suffers setback during shoulder injury recovery, making his return timeline unclear

It isn't that uncommon for a guy to have minor setbacks (which is how the Astros described France's issue) during rehab. Shoulders in particular can be finicky and stiff after an injury, so some unnatural soreness and longer downtimes aren't unusual. However, France being unable to progress past the long toss part of his rehab without encountering a problem is not a good sign.

Even if the Astros are right and France doesn't have anything structurally wrong with his shoulder, they now probably have to shut him down from throwing at all again and start over once his shoulder calms down. Depending on the seriousness, it could be another month before Houston tries to slowly ramp him up again, and there is no guarantee that this won't be a recurring issue.

This is a pretty significant blow to the Astros' pitching depth which was already at its limit going forward. While France pitched very poorly in the big leagues this season, he was a key contributor in Houston's rotation last year with a 3.83 ERA in 23 starts in 2023. Now, the likelihood that France could return to shore up the Astros' pitching staff anytime soon has been reduced to almost zero, and there is a real chance that he may not return to the big leagues in 2024 at all.

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