After a series of rehab starts in Corpus Christi and Sugar Land, the Houston Astros decided that right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers Jr was ready to make his return to the big leagues this Saturday against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park.
Lance McCullers Jr.injured himself after his start in Game four of the American League Division Series, a game in which he pitched on short rest as he had also started Game One for Houston in that series. The injury, a right flexor pronator strain, would render him unable to pitch for the rest of the season.
To make matters worse, McCullers could not communicate with team athletic trainers about handling the injury due to the MLB being in a lockout for most of the offseason. It wasn’t until the lockout ended that McCullers was able to start the process of rehabbing and working to come back.
McCullers stated in an interview, “I just wanted to be an active part of the team…Just step in and keep doing what this team has done so well all year which is win ballgames and play high-quality ballgames and be a part of a team that is in position to go to another postseason.”
McCullers started rehab with various stints in the bullpen, working on getting his velocity back where he had it before the injury. He would throw a maximum of 25-30 pitches and mainly focused on his fastball, which he was able to get up into the low 90s.
After the mini bullpen sessions, McCullers would throw an additional 20 pitches, this time on the main mound and with live batters standing in. Lance would simulate a game by taking a 5-10 minute break between his simulated innings before the team sent him to make a few starts with their minor league affiliates.
The Astros announced that they would return to a six-man rotation following Lance’s return and the trade of Jake Odorizzi, which opened up the spot for McCullers. Luis Garcia will pitch Friday vs. the A’s, followed by McCullers on Saturday and Cristian Javier on Sunday.
A healthy McCullers adds some depth to an already fantastic pitching staff that leads the league in ERA with a 3.18. McCullers isn’t afraid of the big lights either, as he’s pitched in two of the biggest games in Astros history, Game Seven of the 2017 ALCS and World Series, and has a career postseason ERA of 2.83 in 16 games.
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