Chatting with the Houston Astros: Lance McCullers
Sep 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) walks in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
As some of you know, I am venturing out deeper into the baseball world through a talk show radio show called Talking Stros on KTXF-Digital Broadcasting through the Texas Sports Review network. I’m looking to expand my contact lists and possibly be able to get a hold of more Astros players for interviews. We may change the time of the show, but for now, the show will be on Monday’s 8-10 PM CST. You can follow the show at @talkingStros on Twitter.
As the editor at CTH, I will continue to contribute here as well. Yesterday, on our second show, we were joined by Lance McCullers. Should you like to listen to the show, the interview starts after about 30 minutes, click on the link below.
For this weeks Chatting with the Houston Astros, here is Lance McCullers.
The Lance McCullers Interview (Part 1)
CTH/TSR: Lance, I know you are very confident, but did you even surprise yourself at how well you did your rookie season?
McCullers: Interesting question, going into the season, I didn’t know what to expect coming off of my year at Lancaster. I am not sure what element changed this year; I restructured my workout program and everything. Coming off that offseason, I felt really confident, I even had some interviews with people, and I told them that I was big league ready. But, when you get to that point of your career when you enter the big leagues, you take it one day at a time. I’m blessed, lucky enough to be given that opportunity, I think I pitched some really good ball games this year.
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CTH/TSR: You looked pretty big league ready to me congratulations on your great rookie year. I am a Jesuit Grad; I had some buddies from Tampa. They wanted me to ask if you were aware of home many athletes went through your school?
We have a real rich sports tradition Jesuit of sports, not only baseball but in other sports. We have had a lot of successful pro athletes com through there. I think it goes to show you that Tampa is a hotbed for athletes, especially baseball players. The people that Jesuit forms and builds prepares you for that next step of life, no matter who it is. We even have a Hall of Famer that went to Jesuit; Al Lopez was his name. We have a strong tradition and pride with the Jesuit name.
CTH/TSR: I know you had your dad, but did you reach out to the old Jesuit guys for advice as you were coming up the ranks?
McCullers: Not too much, I met a lot of them through my time at Jesuit through Alumni functions, and us having a strong baseball program led to them hanging out a lot. I normally just rely on the people who have been there from the beginning. I did talk to Geoff Goetz, who was an early draft pick in the late 90’s, he’s a pitching coach at Jesuit now, it’s something he does to give back over there. I learned a lot from him this year, just with his experiences, how he navigated through his pro ball experiences.
CTH/TSR: Lance, has anyone discussed pitch counts for the upcoming season or are they going to stretch you out a little more in 2016?
McCullers: No, not really, I talked to A.J. (Hinch) and Stromie throughout the offseason, just checking stuff up, seeing how things are, and how things are progressing. To see if I am healthy, which I am 100% healthy, no one has to worry about my box jumps. I am focusing on getting ample rest from last season and building up in that year. Coming into spring training, we will come up with a plan. My goal is to go 200 plus in the regular season and be ready to pitch in the playoffs; that’s what I am training for. The expectation and goals of the Houston Astros will trump my own.
CTH/TSR: Did it feel good when the Astros said that you were not available in any trade?
McCullers: I don’t follow the winter meetings all that much, but I am pretty active on Twitter, I get a lot of mentions from other people telling me what’s going on. For the Astros to come out and tell other teams that I wasn’t a guy that they wanted to move, that I would stay in Houston. It speaks a lot to the confidence that they have with me, they gave me a chance early on this year, coming off that rough year in Lancaster. They saw what I can ultimately be, and I am happy that I am staying put, I love Houston.
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CTH/TSR: I’m going to put you on the spot. What was your best moment and your worst moment of 2016?
McCullers: My worst moment was definitely getting optioned after that Rangers game, even though it was something coming all along, we had to slow my innings down simply because I had thrown 97 innings the year before and I was on pace to exceed that. It was hard for me to take that, but when I came back from that Dodgers game on, I did pitch with a different tenacity, a chip on my shoulder.
My highlight was definitely pitching in the playoffs at Minute Maid man, no matter how many playoffs or atmospheres I will pitch in, I don’t think it will ever top that first game I pitched at Minute Maid. That’s a career highlight for me.
CTH/TSR: We all appreciate that, you pitched phenomenally. Earlier, you brought up the box jump. I looked up J.J. Watt’s jump, his was 61 inches, you appeared to have jumped high at 61.5 inches, was that on purpose to beat Watt?
McCullers: Well, initially my purpose was to beat Bryce Harper and Steve Souza with at 58-inch box jump. So the first jump was 59.5, I told my trainer that I could go up, so we just stacked and trimmed to box a little and added foam pads under it, and it ended up being 61.5. But J.J. Watt did 61 inches straight off the ground, I took a couple of steps into mine, so JJ still holds the record with flat-footed straight up. That dude is some type of athlete.
CTH/TSR: There is no need to be modest, you can say that you out-box jumped Watt.
McCullers: If JJ wants a box jump off, I will be down. I met him once or twice last year; he’s a good dude. I wouldn’t mind it.
Next: Part 2 - How Do you Feel About the Ken Giles trade