The Houston Astros currently have a five-man rotation in Dallas Keuchel, Scott Kazmir, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, and Scott Feldman. While the Astros have the best earned-run average in the American League, despite the team ‘s recent struggles as a team. As a team, the Astros have a 3.46 ERA, that is .06 in front of second place Kansas City, who have a 3.52 team ERA. It was surprising on Wednesday evening when I got an alert that it was announced that the Astros plan to recall Lance McCullers Jr. for a start on Sunday.
McCullers was sent down to Double-A Corpus Christi, not because of his poor performance, but because of the Astros desire to save some innings for September and October. Obviously this is McCullers’ first year in the majors after being drafted in the 2012 MLB Draft in the sandwich rounds between the first and second rounds. He is already quickly approaching his high of innings pitched in a season. Normally baseball teams like to stretch out their pitchers, by gradually building up their number innings pitched each year.
Unlike how the Washington Nationals handled the Stephen Strasburg innings cap, the Astros were proactive to not have to shut McCullers down when they need him the most. If you asked McCullers, he would probably say that he feels strong and doesn’t think that his innings should be limited. However, the Astros coaching staff understands how important McCullers is to the future of the Astros. They will protect his arm, but at the same time they realize that he is the third best pitcher in the starting rotation.
Most people knew that McCullers would be recalled before August 31, so he could be eligible for the playoff roster. It was surprising that the Astros decided to do it this soon versus giving him another ten days to salvage innings, but understanding because you don’t want him to get too rusty by not pitching. He did make a start last night for the Hooks, going three innings allowing one unearned run. He struck out five batters while walking three runners.
According to Evan Drellich’s article: Astros rookie Lance McCullers to pitch Sunday vs. Dodgers, the Astros will be going with a six-man starting staff, but not necessarily a six-man rotation. Keuchel has already voiced his dislike for extra rest in between starts, and he would like to start every fourth or fifth day. The Astros have committed to keeping Kazmir and Keuchel on normal rest, but will mix and mash the other four pitchers the rest of the time.
A.J. Hinch mentioned in Drellich’s article that they will arrange the rotation series by series, trying to find the right matchups for each starter to pitch. There is no plan right now to move one of the current starters to the bullpen, which should be good news for Feldman and Fiers. Makes you wonder if they will try to continue limiting McCullers’ innings pitched by either increasing the days between or just by skipping starts. They will eventually go back to a five-man rotation.
The Astros will not be sending any of their current bullpen members down, but instead should be sending a positional player down. Depending on which position player is sent down, their stay in the minors would be short with September rapidly approaching. The rosters will expand, but don’t expect too many players to be joining the team with most of the minor league teams will be playing in the playoffs.
Who will be sent down? A good guess for right now would either Preston Tucker or Jake Marisnick could be sent down. However, the Astros could decide to risk putting Chris Carter on waivers to clear up a roster spot for McCullers. Carter is struggling at the moment and is wasting time on the bench with his 0 for 8streak off the bench. If he’s not starting and is struggling off the bench, why have him on the team? Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez have proved to be able to handle first base until September call-ups.
No matter who goes down, it will be great to get The Batman back on the mound for the Astros. He is our number three guy, welcome back Lance!