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Houston Astros: Is team considering starting Lance McCullers in minors?

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Oct 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throws against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning in game four of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throws against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning in game four of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Lance McCullers to face an inning limit is 2016 by the Houston Astros.

Before we get started, I wanted to state that I am not for this idea. However, this was brought up on last night’s @talkingstros by my co-host Brandon. In a recent interview on MLB Network Radio with Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, Luhnow mentioned that Lance McCullers Jr. would indeed be on an innings restriction limits again this season. The basis of the discussion was that they want McCullers healthy for the playoffs next season, so they must be creative in how the manage his starts this year.

Knowing McCullers a little from past conversations, he will not be happy about being placed under an innings restriction again this year like he was last season. McCullers is a competitor, and he wants to be on the mound every five days, but he will be at the mercy of the team. While he may be unhappy with this news, the Astros are looking out for their young pitcher. The question is, how do they limit McCullers innings without hurting the team winning games?

Brandon suggested on last night’s @talkingstros that the Astros signing of Doug Fister means that McCullers could start the season at Triple-A. His theory is that McCullers, who is a Scott Boras client, could have the Astros trying to play around with service time to delay having to re-sign him when he is a free agent. Scott Feldman would then replace McCullers in the rotation to start the season. By delaying his start to the season, it could mean they don’t have to rest him later. However, during the interview with Luhnow, he said that “you can delay his start, which is what no one wants to do.”

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While it’s probably not the last time I will disagree with my co-host Brandon, I think it would send a bad message to the Astros fanbase if they don’t have one of your main young guns in the rotation to get off to a great start to the season. There will already be a public outcry for A.J. Reed to be called up, so the Astros would have a hard time explaining holding McCullers back as well. The Astros have not been shy about doing what they thought was right and ignoring the public outcry.

What can the Astros do to help limit McCullers’ innings? Some suggestions that the Astros could be looking at per Luhnow are skipping starts, giving him breaks throughout the season, or go with a six-man rotation to limit the innings. If the Astros indeed want to go to a six-man rotation including Feldman, look for Dallas Keuchel to go every five days, after all, he is the reigning American League Cy Young winner.

Below is an interview with McCullers, at the time of the interview, he was not aware of any inning limitations.

My thoughts are this, I believe that Feldman will be the long relief guy in the bullpen for the 2016 season, so the Astros could use Feldman in spot starts here and there to pitch for McCullers. I guess you would call this method skipping starts. Luhnow did not give a hard count on how many innings, he had 160 innings in 2015 including the playoff start.

Next: Houston Astros: Talking Stros with Fresno POY Jordan Jankowski

They could stretch him out to about 170-180 this season. I just want to watch him pitch; he is exciting to watch. This will be something to monitor this spring. Should Feldman not be ready to start the season

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