While his future is as a starter for the Astros, Lance McCullers might pitch in the bullpen for the playoffs this year.
For someone like Lance McCullers, he just wants to get out there and pitch. McCullers is among the bright spots of the Astros future, making his first All-Star team this year. McCullers will be part of the rotation for many years if he can stay healthy. The second half of the season has not been kind to McCullers, as he has only started twice since July 30th.
With the regular season drawing to a close with six games left, the Astros don’t have time to stretch McCullers out to be a starter. Before his start Sunday, Hinch said that he would throw between 50 and 75 pitches. McCullers was pulled after 3 1/3 innings throwing 63 pitches. After allowing a first-inning double by Mike Trout strikes out the next two.
One more start?
According to Jake Kaplan, as we predicted on Talking Stros, McCullers will start on Saturday or Sunday. Collin McHugh would start the other game, with a possibility of Dallas Keuchel getting some work in. According to Brian T. Smith, the Astros hope to get McCullers up to 75-80 pitches next time out.
According to Kaplan, the best news following Sunday’s start was that McCullers felt great the next day. While McCullers will serve in any role they ask him too, his first choice is to start. Something that many fans are suggesting is to have McHugh start the game and have McCullers follow as a tandem. With the way that Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton are pitching, it would be hard to keep them out of the rotation.
McHugh will most likely be the inning-eating reliever on the playoff roster. That leaves McCullers as a possible situational reliever. Like what he did in the first inning Sunday, McCullers was able to use mid-90’s fastball and power curveball and changeup to get out of trouble. He struggled in the fourth inning but could be an asset out of the bullpen.
If he is indeed healthy, it’s a mistake to leave him off a playoff roster. With his injuries this year, it may be too much stress on his arm to pitch in back to back games. But then again, you can never count him out. McCullers is a big game pitcher who did start a playoff game in 2015. Who the final cuts on the roster are could depend on the opposing teams.
This was one of the many topics we discussed on this week’s Talking Stros. McCullers has never pitched out of the bullpen as a major leaguer, curious to see what happens.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***