Rotation depth has become a big story in Houston, as the Astros have lost Jose Urquidy until roughly the All-Star break due to shoulder discomfort and Luis Garcia for the whole season due to Tommy John surgery. This makes Lance McCullers Jr.’s recovery from a forearm strain all the more important to the Astros’ plans, yet it still isn’t clear exactly when the right-hander might be able to return. Manager Dusty Baker told the Houston Chronicle’s Danielle Lerner and other reporters that he is “not sure exactly when” McCullers might face live batters as part of his rehab, “but we just hope he doesn’t have any setbacks that would take him backwards.”
Because McCullers’ injury took place so early in Spring Training, it’s been a long process for the righty in both getting healthy and then rebuilding his arm strength. McCullers told Lerner and company that he threw around 35 pitches as part of a bullpen session today, tossing three different pitches with plans to add a cutter during his next bullpen, tentatively slated for Tuesday. McCullers has yet to throw any off-speed pitchers off a mound, but that next step might come next weekend, as he is already throwing his off-speed repertoire while working on flat ground. Though the Astros can retroactively shift McCullers to the 60-day injured list if necessary, his initial placement on the 15-day IL provided an early indication that the club hopes he can return before the end of May.
More from around the AL West…
- Seth Brown began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas today, Athletics manager Mark Kotsay told reporters (including Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). Brown was sidelined with a left oblique strain on April 9 and was given a rough recovery timeline of four to six weeks. Since Kotsay said Brown will need at least 15-20 plate appearances in Vegas, it’ll still be at least a few days before Brown might rejoin Oakland’s lineup, though it looks like he’ll avoid the higher end of his initial rehab projection. Brown was off to a pretty slow start in 2023, but he hit 45 home runs with a .224/.294/.457 slash line over 862 plate appearances in 2021-22.
- X-rays were negative on Josh H. Smith’s left foot after he was hit by a pitch in today’s game. Smith remained in action for another inning before being replaced in left field, though it appears as though he avoided a worst-case scenario. Smith has been a productive and versatile part-time bat for the Rangers, hitting .210/.388/.355 (122 wRC+) over 81 PA this season while seeing time as a left fielder, shortstop, and third baseman.