Houston Astros: Could Lance McCullers Join the Team in Boston?
By Eric Huysman
The Houston Astros Rotation Could be Getting Some More MPH Added Soon!
When not much has gone right for the Houston Astros this season, there can be some light at the end of the tunnel on the horizon. The Astros offense broke out last night, with big hits from Carlos Correa, Carlos Gomez, George Springer, and Jason Castro leading the way. The starting pitching, in particular, has been horrible despite a few good starts here and there. The Astros top-two starting pitchers are having down seasons in Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. The other guys are number four or five starters at best, and the Astros need a true third starter if they want to attempt a comeback this year.
That third starter was supposed to be Lance McCullers, but a sore shoulder following the days he pitched was very worrisome for the Astros brass. When he pitches, he does fine hitting the upper 90’s with the fastball, but it was the next day that he would feel the soreness. Being the competitor he is, McCullers did not like being on the sidelines watching his teammates struggle to start the season. But he knows that the Astros have his best interests in mind, even last year when he had the temporary shutdown with the Hooks.
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The Astros thought so much of McCullers that they chose to keep him over Vincent Velasquez, who is having a breakout season as a member of the Phillies team who is winning now while the Astros are losing. McCullers has made some progress early in the season, but would have a setback and would have to pause his comeback. Recently, he has been in extended spring training in Kissimmee doing simulated games. His most recent simulated game, he got up and down five times (about 4 2/3 innings) with about 62 pitches thrown.
The Astros waited until the following day to see how his shoulder felt after throwing that many pitches, to see how it bounced back. He was able to play catch as well, and his shoulder felt good. The next step is that McCullers will make a start with the Fresno Grizzlies in El Paso, according to Angel Verdejo Jr. In Verdejo’s article, Hinch suggested that it could be only one start, but there is not a timetable set for how long it would be before McCullers returns.
He will be on a pitch count of 65-75 pitches during Saturday’s start, probably dependent on the stress level of the pitches. It would be surprising to see him pitch in only pitch one rehab game before possibly returning during the Boston series, but it is possible. The Astros would have to make a decision on who is taken out of the rotation at that point.
Next: Dallas Keuchel: What is the deal with the Astros ace?
Despite pitching well, the Astros will probably send Michael Feliz down or the struggling Josh Fields. Chris Devenski could be pitching for his rotation spot along with Mike Fiers, who pitches tonight. Doug Fister appears to have a spot locked down for now, and Keuchel and McHugh should be safe as well. This will leave the competition between Fiers and Devenski. One of them could become the long reliever. How many long relievers do the Astros need this year, apparently a lot?