Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. departed after four frames yesterday, and manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the contest that the decision was prompted by the right-hander informing the team of some tightness in his right forearm. Pitching coach Brent Strom said after the game (video link via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart) that McCullers acknowledged some elbow tightness, but Strom added that he’s remaining “optimistic” that the issue won’t prove to be major. McCullers, who had Tommy John surgery in 2018, told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle and others that he doesn’t believe the issue to be ligament-related. The club will surely evaluate him in the coming days as it determines whether McCullers will be able to contribute to the rotation for their ALCS showdown against the Red Sox.
A couple more key injury scenarios to monitor as the postseason field narrows…
- Giants infielder Tommy La Stella exited last night’s game with the same Achilles discomfort that has plagued him for the past several weeks, manager Gabe Kapler said after the game (Twitter link via Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). Despite the ongoing issue, La Stella is expected to be ready to play for tomorrow’s winner-take-all Game 5, per Kapler. There’s an argument to be made for swapping La Stella out for a healthier Thairo Estrada, but removing La Stella from the NLDS roster would also render him ineligible to play in the NLCS. La Stella has three singles in eight at-bats, plus a pair of walks, thus far in the NLDS against the Dodgers. He hit .250/.308/.405 through 242 regular-season plate appearances during the first season of a three-year contract with the Giants. As it stands, the Giants also have Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores as potential options at second base.
- The Giants are also seeing progress from injured first baseman Brandon Belt and left-hander Tony Watson, notes Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter links). Belt, still hoping to return from a fractured left thumb at some point during a potential NLCS or World Series run, took grounders and made some throws yesterday. Any throwing is of some note, given that the fracture is in his throwing hand. Meanwhile, Watson tossed a bullpen session yesterday that went well enough for the Giants to believe he’ll be ready to return for the NLCS, should they qualify. Watson has been out since late September due to a shoulder strain. The 36-year-old pitched to a 2.96 ERA in 24 1/3 innings in his second stint as a Giant after being acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline.