Lance McCullers Jr. doesn’t want to leave the Astros

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. joined Michael, Matthew and David Schwab on the Schwabcast this past week. While the Astros starting pitcher is nearing his first time on the free agency block, he talks about his love for the city, fans and the organization that he calls home.

The Astros starting pitcher talked about his fandom for local food in the Montrose area, and how he goes to Local Foods once a day in Rice Village. The topic of interacting with fans in public arose, and he laughed about catching people’s side eyes. “I have never had an off putting experience,” McCullers explained. “While meeting people [in Houston].”

The cheating scandal combined with a short season and COVID-19 brought a great realization from the Astros pitcher. While every player was trying to shake off the cheating the scandal, other young players were getting hate for being on the team. Only seven current players remain from the 2017 roster in the Astros organization and six of them are active. “If you wore Astros colors and you had nothing to do with that part of history,” McCullers said. “You were hated more than guys that were then and now are elsewhere.” One hope for Astros fans is that McCullers said that the organization is pushing to have fans at the games in 2021.

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Lance McCullers Jr. was drafted by the Astros in the 2012 MLB Draft. From there he built a strong relationship with shortstop Carlos Correa, who now have an MMA podcast together on Sirius XM. He made his major league debut in 2015 at the age of 21, and since then he has been an All-Star, battled serious injuries, which included Tommy John Surgery, and won a World Series.

The Schwab brothers then asked McCullers about the story where he threw 24 straight curveballs in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. After throwing six consecutive fastballs with an injured hip, catcher Brian McCann came out to the mound and told him to throw a curve. The next pitch ended up being a strike, and McCullers Jr. didn’t feel any pain in his hip. The two made the connection, and then consistently threw the breaking pitch to make it to the World Series. McCullers played through that season with back issues that carried over from 2016. When pitching through injury, the right-hander spoke on the toughness it takes, and how you are doing not only for yourself but also for the guys around you.

They spoke on the future of McCullers in Houston, as he will be a free agent next offseason. Although, his friends, family, and the organization know he wants to wear Astros colors for the rest of his career. The right-hander wants to bring another World Series to the city of Houston, but it is starting to sound like a two-way street. McCullers explained if he is not in the Astros plans moving forward then he will have to find a new employer, although he would not like to play anywhere else. “The short answer is yes,” McCullers said. “The long answer is both want to have that same thing.”

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As Houston is looking to contend in the American League this season, McCullers believes a healthy Astros team will do some damage. Although finishing below .500 in the ’20 regular season, the team turned it around in the postseason as they were one win away from the World Series. So, we know there isn’t too much to worry about in the struggles of a small sample sized season. “If we have our roster right now and constructed as is,” McCullers said. “I 100% think we will go to the World Series.”

The right-hander thinks that Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are in the running for MVP. He also said he was emotional about the report that said Michael Brantley was signing with the Blue Jays. The respect and love for his teammates is there for the one-time All-Star, and we could only hope he stays with this group for the next couple of years.

McCullers enters the 2021 Spring Training and regular season looking to keep his spot among the Astros rotation for he future. The right-hander, who does everything else left-handed, has hit a few road bumps since the ’17 World Series run. With a career ERA of 3.70 and 565 strikeouts, McCullers has never pitched more than 130 innings in an entire season. This comes from injured list stints and not having a fully healthy season, as he has put his body to the test.

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The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation has also been a huge part of McCullers tenure in Houston, as he has been rescuing and saving the lives of local dogs. He uses his platform to give back and describes how being an active player has made it possible to make a bigger impact than a player who was retired. The Astros pitcher has the ability to reach the whole city of Houston, as one of the faces of the active core.