Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. hasn’t pitched since Game 4 of the ALDS, and it looks like his forearm injury will end his season. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that McCullers won’t be available for the World Series, so Houston will now have to try to win its second consecutive postseason matchup without one of its best hurlers.
Astros GM James Click didn’t rule McCullers out when speaking to reporters (including The Houston Chronicle’s Danielle Lerner) earlier Sunday, noting that roster decisions didn’t need to made until Tuesday morning, “and we’re going to take every minute we can just to see how he’s responding. We’re not taking anything off the table….It’s obviously something that I know Lance wants to be out there if he can, so we will talk to the doctors and him and the trainers and figure it out from there.”
However, as open-minded as Click was about McCullers’ chances, Heyman’s report essentially formalizes what has seemed increasingly evident over the last few days. McCullers has yet to so much as throw since suffering his injury, a strain of his flexor pronator muscle. While the muscle injury itself doesn’t present any serious long-term issue, McCullers has already undergone Tommy John surgery (costing him the entire 2019 season), and obviously the Astros aren’t going to take any unnecessary risks with his health.
That TJ rehab cost McCullers a chance to participate in the 2019 World Series, and it’s quite possible that with a healthy McCullers in the fold, Houston would’ve been able to bring home another championship. The righty has quietly been a very solid arm during the Astros’ postseason runs, with a 2.83 ERA over 57 1/3 innings as a starter and a reliever in the playoffs. This year alone, McCullers allowed just one earned run in 10 2/3 frames against the White Sox in the ALDS, starting Games 1 and 4.
Framber Valdez was announced as Houston’s starter for Tuesday’s Game 1 against the Braves. As we saw in the ALCS against the Red Sox, the Astros will take a flexible approach to their pitching plans, so no other starters have been officially slated for the other World Series games. On paper, it would seem like the Astros would line up Luis Garcia in Game 2, Jose Urquidy in Game 3, and then Zack Greinke for perhaps only a few innings to begin Game 4, with Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi on hand to provide innings as long men out of the bullpen.