Astros News: Lance McCullers receives injection for nerve irritation

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. received an injection to treat his nerve irritation.

When Lance McCullers Jr. was removed from his last start without recording an out, fans feared the worst. The Houston Astros subsequently placed him on the Injured List with neck nerve irritation, and the latest news is that he received an anti-inflammatory injection to treat the irritation.

Manager Dusty Baker initially said McCullers underwent a “procedure” but did not specify as to what it was. He did say that it alleviated “95 to 98 percent of whatever discomfort he was feeling.” Later, sources confirmed the procedure was actually a mild injection rather than some type of surgery, which fans might have momentarily feared.

McCullers, of course, is coming off Tommy John surgery, and pitchers usually aren’t quite their old selves in their first year back from the procedure. He’s certainly had his ups and downs this season, but he’s mostly been healthy until now, at least as far as we know.

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In his last start on Friday, he faced only five batters and did not record an out, throwing only five of his 18 pitches for strikes. He said after game that he had difficulty gripping the ball but insisted he wasn’t hurt, with Baker referring to it as “dead arm.”

The team has not offered a timetable for McCullers’ return, but it has been reported that he could be back sometime within the next week or two. That would be dependent on the injection continuing to work and the nerve issues not recurring, which of course would be the most welcome outcome. In that scenario, he would likely be ready for the postseason.

But nerve issues are nothing to be taken lightly. If they persist or get worse, it could take some form of surgery to correct them. McCullers has unfortunately been rather injury prone thus far in his major league career, so this is something to monitor closely, both for his sake and for the team’s.

McCullers is eligible for free agency following the 2021 season, so whether he’s able to stay healthy and productive next year will be one of the most important things to watch. His youth and talent could net him a big payday, but he won’t get it if he can’t stay on the field.

Hopefully the nerve issue goes away and he pitches his tail off for 33 starts next year, but the first step toward that is for him to recover and finish this season strong. Even if he’s not at his best (and he hasn’t been for most of this year), the Astros desperately need him in the rotation.