The Astros are placing right-hander Lance McCullers on the 10-day disabled list due to discomfort in his lower back, reports Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). McCullers, the Astros’ No. 2 starter, will join ace Dallas Keuchel on the shelf. Kaplan tweets further that the team is hopeful that McCullers can avoid a lengthy stay on the DL, though the placement of the team’s top two starters on the disabled list is obviously of some concern even if neither injury is believed to be serious at this time.
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The silver lining for Houston, of course, is that the team has such an enormous lead on the division that weathering the loss of its top two starters for a short period is perfectly plausible. The Astros are currently 12 games ahead of the second-place Angels and 13 games ahead of both the Mariners and Rangers. Right-hander Joe Musgrove is being activated to start tonight’s game, per Kaplan, though there’s no word yet who’ll start in place of McCullers tomorrow.
McCullers, 23, has been not only one of the best arms on the Astros but one of the best young arms in the entire American League. Through 76 2/3 innings in 2017, he’s pitched to a pristine 2.58 ERA with a gaudy 89-to-23 K/BB ratio and a sensational 63 percent ground-ball rate. With both Keuchel and McCullers sidelined for the time being, Houston will likely rely on a rotation consisting of Musgrove, Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock and David Paulino.
Top prospect Francis Martes, conceivably, could step into the team’s rotation, and dominant multi-inning reliever Chris Devenski at least makes sense as a speculative option. Other candidates on the current 40-man roster are a bit scarce, as righties Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh have not yet begun a minor league rehab assignments. Prospect Brady Rodgers, meanwhile, is out for the year due to Tommy John surgery.